THE SHADOW KING. Pic Prudence Upton

“Who is it that can tell me who I am?” asks Lear.

“Lear’s shadow”, replies the fool.

THE SHADOW KING is the apt title of an adaptation of King Lear by Tom E. Lewis and Michael Kantor.

Set in Northern Australia, THE SHADOW KING is the fulmination of a dream the two theatre practitioners have held dear – “to tell one of the foundation stories of contemporary Western civilisation but use it to question and probe contemporary indigenous experience.”

More than a mere palimpsest, THE SHADOW KING retains whole phrases from Shakespeare, sometimes translated into traditional tongues, cantilevered with the use of colloquial English.

Jimi Bani is magnetic as Edmund, a real bastard, made all the more so by amalgamating his character with Cornwall from the original text.

Kamahi Djordon King is a wonderfully cheeky Fool, also taking on the lines and attributes of Kent, an assimilation that works astoundingly well.

Gloucester takes on a gender change in Frances Djulibing’s performance as the mother of Edmund and Edgar. It brings the issue of domestic violence within communities into sharp focus.

Cordelia’s incarceration conjures all too chillingly the issue of deaths in custody.

The wide expanse of Bay 17 at Carriageworks accommodates the actors, a three piece band, a  revolve that for the most part looks like a monstrous machine akin to Dr. No’s dragon, and a screen on which projections of place and events give a visual shorthand to the narrative.

There’s a raw energy that powers this production, nimbly traversing the narrative of treachery, lechery, lunacy and loss.

THE SHADOW KING played Bay 17 at Carriageworks between the 23rd and 26th January as part of this year’s Festival of Sydney.