What’s Behind Our King Lear Seascape Poster?

Our poster for King Lear features Calgary actor and legend Stephen Hair as the mad king. Created by our designer, Kurt Firla, our posters are always more than they seem. A number of our Shakespeare fans have been asking why our King Lear poster features a seascape. We decided to ask Artistic Director Haysam Kadri how the poster came about.


HK:  The poster is the work of our designer, Kurt Firla, who is based in L.A.  I conceived the idea and he executed it.  Subsequently, I have learned of the myths behind the Lear story, of the sea god Lyr (Irish) or LLyr (Welsh) who banishes his daughter Crieddylad, out on to the sea, as a seabird.   I would love to say that I had those myths in mind when thinking of the poster, but the image was simply strong to me in the background in Lear.  No symbolism was intended.  But, actually, unwittingly coming up with an image that echoes the mythic source says more about the power of myth, and Shakespeare’s employment of it, than had it been chosen consciously.


Ted Hughes, in his great work exploring Shakespeare’s use of myth, Shakespeare and The Goddess of Complete Being, suggests that Shakespeare could quite plausibly have learned of these myths, and of one behind Prospero, through his Welsh schoolmaster, Thomas Jenkins.  Jenkins, who taught him from the age of 12 to 15, would have himself absorbed it in a traditional Celtic poetic school, where it would have been required learning.


Hughes’ account of Lear’s mythic roots reaches as far back as Egypt and Greece, but the sea god image seems a particularly Celtic contribution.


Mixing Welsh mythology and visuals inspired by the tragedy itself, our the poster art is more than meets the eye. King Lear plays in The Studio at Vertigo Theatre from March 15 to March 31.