My first year here at York is coming to an end, but that’s not the only exciting thing happening – it’s the York International Shakespeare Festival! Over the course of the festival, loads of Shakespeare performances and workshops take place across the city, and I’ve been very lucky to have one pretty cool production and company visit my department with one of the Festival’s most notable productions. I’m talking about Northern Broadsides and their new production of King Lear – Shakespeare’s well-known, classic tale of dominance and deception, in which a king divides up his kingdom amongst his three daughters, and finds himself on the receiving end of betrayal later. Starring Barrie Rutter as the titular king, and with direction from Johnathan Miller, I couldn’t wait to step into the Department of Theatre, Film and Television’s Scenic Stage Theatre.

As I said in my review of Macbeth a few months ago, every Shakespeare story will always be the same, unless you radically alter its structure and flip the world of the play on its head with a ground-breaking directorial concept. This flexibility allows you to do almost anything with your production of one of the Bard’s plays. Northern Broadsides have gone for a more classic vibe: they have a nice and clean minimalistic set design, along with some simple lighting and a couple of period costumes. This helps us to focus on the language of Shakespeare’s play right from the start, and especially focus on Northern Broadsides’s trademark aspect – their Northern accents, which have been famed for smashing the stereotype that Shakespeare can’t be done effectively without going all posh and eloquent. We also focus on the characters more, and get easily caught up in the world and narrative of the play.

Nowadays, it’s arguable that we’re used to theatre being something of a spectacle. Some of us often expect there to be loads of big production values in shows, with plenty of dazzling lights and sound effects to draw us into the production and engage us. If that’s what you like in a production, I’d say that this isn’t the show for you; as I said earlier, Northern Broadsides have chosen to go for a more simplistically classic vibe. There’s nothing spectacular in terms of lighting or sound, which does indeed encourage us to celebrate the language of one of the world’s most prominent playwrights. However, I do feel that at times this absence of production aspects caused the piece to appear lacking in a sense of atmosphere and place. After the interval, theatrical fog and sounds of thunder roar throughout the theatre, immediately giving me this sense of place and atmosphere that the first act doesn’t quite have. The lighting is used much more effectively in the second half, however, with strobe lighting and interesting angles being employed to emphasise climactic and prominent scenes.

On the whole, however, the production is enjoyable and engaging. Rutter is excellent as the title king, and the company works well as an ensemble. Northern Broadsides have brought to the stage a production of Shakespeare that might not break ground or dazzle us, but instead brings us face to face with the epic world of the play, along with its timeless themes and narrative. It’s clear, concise and well-considered.

King Lear is playing at the University of York (Department of Theatre, Film and Television) until 16 May. For more information and tickets, visit the York Theatre Royal website