Edgar (right), played by Tim Martin, crosses swords with Edmund (James Johnson) in King Lear at the Shakespeare By the Sea festival at Fisherman’s Wharf until Aug. 20. Robert Light photo

The Bard returns to Fisherman’s Wharf Park in Victoria

Shakespeare by the Sea features King Lear and the Complete Works of William Shakespeare

Be prepared to laugh, cry and feel a range of emotions in between, during this year’s Shakespeare by the Sea.

The sixth annual event, which is an ode to William Shakespeare, opened at Fisherman’s Wharf last week with King Lear, a timeless story of politics, war and the relationship between men and women.

Lear is a British king in 8th-century BC who descends into madness when he disposes of his kingdom, giving bequests to two of his three daughters based on their flattery of him, which brings tragic consequences for all.

“There’s quite a bit of loss of identity and madness, especially when you look at King Lear … it’s not a happy ending by any means,” said Tim Martin, who plays the role of Edgar and has performed in 10 Shakespearean plays in recent years.

The Vancouver Island Shakespeare Arts Society, which puts on the event, has performed Shakespeare’s other tragedies such as Macbeth, Hamlet and Othello over the past four years. King Lear is the last of those four great tragic figures.

“It’s certainly one of his darkest and most dramatic plays,” said Mary Kennedy, president of the society’s board.

Shakespeare by the Sea also features Complete Works of Williams Shakespeare (abridged). It was first performed in Edinburgh in 1987 and went on to a nine-year run at the Criterion Theatre in London.

“It’s a side-splitting comedy that is just a crazy romp through all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays,” said Kennedy, adding it was important to have a mix of plays from both ends of the emotional spectrum.

“In contrast to an audience leaving [Lear] with the feeling and weight and heaviness of rampant death, we wanted the next night to just lighten spirits. We wanted that great contrast of emotions.”

The event runs until Aug. 20, with King Lear running Thursdays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 7 p.m. The Complete Works plays Fridays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m., performed under the big top at Fisherman’s Wharf Park (30 Erie St.) in James Bay, which overlooks the entrance to the Inner Harbour.

For more information or tickets visit vancouverislandshakespearearts.com.

kendra.wong@vicnews.com