Being and Having in Shakespeare

John Kerrigan writes:

Last summer, the National Theatre put on Timon of Athens as a play about the credit crunch. Simon Russell Beale was the glossy, well-fed protagonist, a wealthy patron of the arts and liberal dispenser of gifts, who plunges into misanthropy when he can borrow no more and his friends reject him. The production was stylishly contemporary, set in the expensive interiors of Mayfair and Canary Wharf. During the interval, the audience spilled out onto the balconies overlooking the Thames audibly relieved that the play was so accessible. In the final acts, when Timon is destitute, Beale’s Lear-like tirades were underpowered, but he was convincing as a down-and-out, pushing his worldly goods in a shopping trolley, and found a psychological link between the compulsive, alienated gift-giving of the opening act and the nihilistic isolation of his ending.

(LRB 12 September 2013)

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