9. The Player’s Soliloquy

Lear is Here dir. Wu Hsing-kuo, Taiwan, 2001

Chapter 9: The Player’s Soliloquy

This final sequence begins with a Buddhist chant offstage, as Wu enters. According to the program notes to the 2001 production the “role” Wu plays now is “Wu Hsing-kuo,” — himself.  However, the description that follows complicates this:

Lear is summoned from a remote place and appears like a ghost. Narrating the rising and vanishing of human lives in a ritualistic way, Wu’s singing and movement are intended to present the changing nature of life and the loss of the past.

In addition, the narration refers to Lear in the third person (“though valiant, the old Lear stalled in the mire”) adding a layer of complexity to the question of what role or combination of roles Wu is playing.

Within the broad rubric of “the changing nature of life,” the speaker focuses initially on the changing nature of his own identity. At the very end, the speaker, seen in a swing elevated far above the stage, concludes his meditations: “Be it the palace or the wilderness, thriving or declining, it reminds me only of a prison with four walls. Lonely and quiet I look coldly at the moon that rises, sets, waxes and wanes.” A major question for the study of Shakespeare’s  King Lear is whether, in the bleak scenes that end the play, the work offers any hints of hope or redemption.  The same question may asked of Lear is Here, which concludes rather differently, not with the death of Lear, but certainly with bleak reflections on life, in the solo mode that has characterized the work.