By Keith Tomasek, May 30, 20203
I read a lot of theatre reviews.
Each year I aggregate reviews of the Stratford Festival’s productions so theatre-goers can consider multiple opinions before committing their time and money to attend a production.
There’s nothing I like more than an in-depth, well-informed story that reviews, criticizes and provides historical context.
Sadly traditional journalistic organizations have been cutting coverage of the arts. There are very few theatre critics remaining in Canada who can provide the style of writing that inspires thought-provoking analysis of a play.
Enter Chat GPT.
Many people are heralding the powers of Chat GPT, but one thing is certain – it can’t replace the voice of a genuine theatre critic.
Currently, artificial intelligence doesn’t have the capacity to respond well to prompts that demand an opinion or assessment of something happening now. It does, however, have the capacity to gather data from the past.
In the review below you’ll see how it gathered generic data about “King Lear” and tried to apply it to a production with very little digital information available. Also worth noting is the format it adheres to.
In my request for Chat GPT to review Stratford’s King Lear I provided the following information:
The star is Paul Gross, who is returning to the Stratford Festival stage after 23 years. The director is Kimberley Rampersad.
Here’s Chat GPT’s Review of King Lear at the Stratford Festival.
Title: A Triumphant Return to the Stratford Stage: Paul Gross in King Lear
Opening night at the Stratford Festival brought forth an eagerly awaited production of Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy, King Lear.
The star-studded performance featured the return of the renowned Paul Gross to the Stratford stage after a remarkable hiatus of 23 years. Under the direction of Kimberley Rampersad, this rendition promised an intriguing interpretation of Lear’s tragic journey. While the production showcased some notable strengths, it also suffered from occasional missteps, preventing it from reaching its full potential.
Gross’s portrayal of King Lear was undeniably the centerpiece of the evening. The veteran actor’s return was met with great anticipation, and he delivered a captivating performance that showcased both his mastery of Shakespearean verse and his deep understanding of the character.
Gross expertly captured the transformation of Lear, from a domineering and egotistical ruler to a broken and vulnerable old man. His commanding stage presence, combined with the subtlety of his emotional range, allowed the audience to witness the gradual unraveling of Lear’s sanity with heartbreaking authenticity. Gross’s ability to navigate the complexity of Lear’s internal struggles was truly remarkable, and he proved once again why he is considered a titan of the stage.
Supporting Gross was an ensemble cast that exhibited varying degrees of success. Standout performances came from Jacqueline Morrison as Cordelia [Chat GPT got that wrong – Jacqueline Morrison is not in the production] and Michael Blake as the cunning Edmund.
Morrison exuded an angelic innocence and unwavering loyalty, providing a poignant counterbalance to the tumultuous events surrounding her. Blake, on the other hand, embraced the role of the villainous Edmund with gusto, infusing his portrayal with a charming malevolence that made him both detestable and captivating to watch.
The production’s visual elements, including set design and costumes, were striking and evocative. The use of a minimalist set, dominated by a large, crumbling staircase, effectively conveyed the grandeur and decay of Lear’s kingdom [not having seen the show yet I don’t know if it includes a “crumbling staircase” – or where Chat GPT found that information].
The sound design, featuring a haunting score that underscored the play’s dramatic tension, enhanced the overall atmosphere. The seamless transitions between scenes, aided by the lighting design, ensured a fluid progression and maintained the audience’s engagement. The stage combat sequences were executed with precision and intensity, adding excitement and visual spectacle to the production.
Ultimately, the Stratford Festival’s King Lear, starring Paul Gross and directed by Kimberley Rampersad, presented a compelling interpretation of Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy.
Gross’s triumphant return to the Festival stage was the unequivocal highlight, with his stunning portrayal of Lear encapsulating the character’s complexities. Kimberley Rampersad’s direction showcased moments of brilliance, though it faltered at times in pacing and the integration of modern elements. While the production had its minor flaws, it remained a grand spectacle of Shakespearean theater, reaffirming the Stratford Festival’s enduring commitment to delivering captivating and thought-provoking performances.