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Shakespeare was a great writer of storm toss’d scenes, lowering skies threatening wrack and ruin, and in the Minack this week his art came so very close to finding a reflection in life.

Lear

The Winchester College Players’ performance of King Lear, a play in which the inner maelstrom of the king’s breaking mind finds reflection in the outer storms which flay his kingdom, was performed under threatening clouds on Wednesday, with waves to be heard crashing against the rocks at the base of the clifftop theatre.

It took little imagination to feel sympathy with the play’s half-naked protagonists, Lear and the seemingly-mad Edgar, as we shivered on the terraces and they stood in defiance of the elements.

Indeed the sound effects the company had laid on seemed of little avail, serving mainly to bookend the two halves of the play.

The players performed admirably, braving the elements in sometimes scanty attire (for the men at least) and even handling an overflying search and rescue helicopter with aplomb.

While Edgar was well played by Thomas Yarrow, he was overtopped by Jonny Taylor as his brother Edmund, seemingly crafted out of pure – yet rational – evil, a perfect picture of dissimulation.

The true star of the show was however Anna Tolputt’s fool: played with a hint of modernity, managing to make Shakespearean jokes funny to a modern audience, and with a bit of 21st century strut added to 18th century capering.

Although many wouldn’t associate Shakespearean tragedy with bawdy fun, the play also involved enough stage fighting, violence – and insults worthy of a medieval Malcolm Tucker – to stop it lagging across its two and a half hours.

While the star of any show at the Minack will inevitably be the stunning backdrop, the Winchester College Players have managed to carve out their niche in the theatres bedrock, bringing a shining performance to this little ring of Cornish granite.

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