For Shakespeare enthusiasts, few touring groups capture the essence of his works better than The Globe Theatre.
Next week, the Moore Theatre will host three performances of “King Lear” directed by Bill Buckhurst, starring Joseph Marcell as the king and a cast of seven others starting Nov. 25, 26 at 7:30 p.m., with a Wednesday matinee at 2 p.m.
While Marcell is better known worldwide as Geoffrey the butler on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” the classically trained actor has spent several tours with Globe Theatre Shakespearian productions.
This time, the Caribbean-born actor tackles one of Shakespeare’s tougher roles in “King Lear,” the ruler of Britain who spirals into madness after dividing his kingdom between only two of his three daughters.
When Marcell was first approached about the role he was unconvinced he was up for the task, but gentle prodding by friends and fellow actors convinced him to go for it.
“I didn’t think I was of an age,” Marcell said. “He’s four-score in the play, and at the time it was casting I was only 66. I didn’t think I’d had the life experiences to play such a role … I saw him as a vibrant, vigorous king, someone who led from the front. Probably covered in scars. Someone who had killed, who stood up for himself but could no longer wield a broadsword for 14 hours on end.
As rehearsals started in 2013, Marcell spent six weeks with Buckhurst going over the role, his vision of the play line-by-line determining what was still essential, cutting certain speeches and images that are no longer relevant.
Still present however, is the minimalist approach to the production as the cast and crew attempt to recreate how the show would have looked like when it was being performed in the first decade of the 1600s.
For Marcell that means nothing is more important than verse and the crowd experience.
“The play is about image and excitement and also a shared experience between the actors performing the play and the audience watching. Our audiences are active participants in our production, although not necessarily physically. We don’t go out and grab people on stage, but it’s quite an evening.”
The actors on stage are responsible for everything on stage, including sounds and music, which makes for a “live” and “immediate” audience reaction, Marcell said.
Although some actors can fall into being typecasted for one particular role they played, Marcell said he embraces the recognition as Will Smith’s witty butler, even as that audience grows each fall when the show starts its next syndication run.
“There’s no escaping it. From Turkey to the Caribbean, everywhere I go in the world people recognize me and it’s heartwarming,” he said. “Every September a new generation realizes its the epitome of cool. But what I do is I’m an actor. I act in plays, television and films. It was a role and it finished I’ve done many other things since then.
Audiences however will forever cling to the role, even responding to Marcell’s aside in “King Lear” of “Does anyone here know me?” with “Geoffrey.”
For more information or tickets, visit www.stgpresents.org.