King Lear at the Duke of Yorks Theatre in London

King Lear

Play by William Shakespeare. Old King Lear resolves to share the British kingdom between his three daughters on the condition that they declare their love for him unconditionally. Cordelia, his youngest daughter, refuses to do so, is banished and the kingdom is divided between his two elder daughters. The two sisters divest Lear of his remaining power and eventually turn him out into a stormy night. Meanwhile, Lear's loyal friend, Gloucester, is abused by Edmund, his illegitimate son, who has turned him against Edgar, his legitimate son. When Cordelia returns from France with an army to conquer England for her father, the tragedy reaches its terrible climax.

1986 Olivier Theatre - Anthony Hopkins

1989 Old Vic Theatre - Eric Porter

1989 Almeida Theatre - Richard Haddon Haines

1990 Lyttelton Theatre - Brian Cox

1990 Dominion Theatre - Richard Briers

1991 Barbican Theatre - John Wood

1993 Royal Court - Tom Wilkinson

1994 Barbican Theatre - Robert Stephens

1997 Cottesloe Theatre - Ian Holm

1997 Old Vic Theatre - Alan Howard

1999 Shakespeare's Globe - Kalamandalam Padmanablan Nair

1999 Barbican Theatre - Nigel Hawthorne

2001 Shakespeare's Globe - Julian Glover

2003 Old Vic Theatre - Timothy West

2005 Albery Theatre - Corin Redgrave

2007 New London Theatre - Ian McKellen

2008 Shakespeare's Globe - David Calder

2010 Donmar Warehouse - Derek Jacobi

2011 The Roundhouse - Greg Hicks

2012 Shakespeare's Globe - Aleh Sidorchik

2012 Almeida Theatre - Jonathan Pryce

2013 Shakespeare's Globe - Joseph Marcell

2013 Shakespeare's Globe - Aleh Sidorchik

2014 Olivier Theatre - Simon Russell Beale

2014 Shakespeare's Globe - Joseph Marcell

2017 Old Vic Theatre - Glenda Jackson

2017 Shakespeare's Globe - Kevin R McNally

2018 Duke of York's Theatre - Ian McKellen

1986 Olivier Theatre, National Theatre

Previewed 3 December 1986, Opened 11 December 1986, Closed 11 November 1987 (in repertory) at the Olivier Theatre

The cast featured Anthony Hopkins as 'King Lear' with Anna Massey as 'Goneril' and Roshan Seth as the 'Fool'.

Directed by David Hare with sets by Hayden Griffin, costumes by Christine Stromberg, lighting by Rory Dempster, music by Nick Bicat and sound by Nic Jones.

1989 Old Vic Theatre

Previewed 13 March 1989, Opened 28 March 1989, Closed 13 April 1989 at the Old Vic

The cast featured Eric Porter as 'King Lear' with Gemma Jones as 'Goneril', Peter Bayliss as the the 'Fool' and France de la Tour as 'Regan'.

Directed by Jonathan Miller with designs by Richard Hudson and lighting by Davy Cunningham.

1989 Almeida Theatre, RSC

Previewd 13 September, 1989, Opened 15 September 1989, Closed 28 October 1989 (in repertory) at the Almeida Theatre

The cast featured Richard Haddon Haines as 'King Lear' with Marie Mullen as 'Goneril' and Patrick Miller as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Cicely Berry with movement by Lesley Hutchison, designs by Chris Dyer and lighting by Robert Jones.

1990 Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre

Previewed 22 June 1990, Opened 26 July 1990, Closed 2 February 1991 (in repertory) at the Lyttelton Theatre

The cast featured Brian Cox as 'King Lear' with Susan Engel as 'Goneril' and David Bradley as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Deborah Warner with designs by Hildegard Bechtler, lighting by Jean Kalman, music by Dominic Muldowney and sound by Freya Edwards.

1990 Dominion Theatre, Renaissance Theatre Company

Opened 21 August 1990, Closed 25 August 1990 (in repertory) at the Dominion Theatre

The cast featured Richard Briers as 'King Lear' with Siobhan Redmond as 'Goneril', Emma Thompson as the 'Fool' and Kenneth Branagh 'Edgar'.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh with designs by Jenny Tiramani, lighting by Jon Linstrum. and music by Patrick Doyle.

Presented by the Renaissance Theatre Company.

1991 Barbican Theatre, RSC

Previewed 25 April 1991, Opened 1 May 1991, Closed 27 August 1991 (in repertory) at the Barbican Theatre

The cast featured John Wood as 'King Lear' with Estelle Kohler as 'Goneril' and Linda Kerr Scott as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Nicholas Hytner with designs by David Fielding, lighting by Chris Parry, and music and sound by Peter Hayward.

1993 Royal Court, English Stage Company

Previewed 14 January 1993, Opened 21 January 1993, Closed 20 March 1993 at the Royal Court

The cast featured Tom Wilkinson as 'King Lear' with Lia Williams as 'Goneril' and Andy Serkis as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Max Stafford-Clark with designs by Peter Hartwell and lighting by Rick Fisher.

1994 Barbican Theatre, RSC

Previewed 26 May 1994, Opened 31 May 1994, Closed 30 August 1994 (in repertory) at the Barbican Theatre

The cast featured Robert Stephens as 'King Lear' with Janet Dale as 'Goneril' and Ian Hughes as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Adrian Noble with movement by Sue Lefton, designs by Anthony Ward, lighting by Alan Burrett, and music and sound by Shaun Davey.

1997 Cottesloe Theatre, National Theatre

Previewed 21 March 1997, Opened 27 March 1997, Closed 10 September 1997 (in repertory) at the Cottesloe Theatre

The cast featured Ian Holm as 'King Lear' with Barbara Flynn as 'Goneril' and Michael Bryant as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Richard Eyre with designs by Bob Crowley, lighting by Jean Kalman, music by Dominic Muldowney and sound by Simon Baker.

1997 Old Vic Theatre, Peter Hall Company

Previewed 26 August 1997, Opened 24 September 1997, Closed December 1997 (in repertory) at the Old Vic

The cast featured Alan Howard as 'King Lear' with Anna Cartaret as 'Goneril' and Alan Dobie as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Peter Hall with designs by John Gunter, lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Judith Weir and sound by Matt McKenzie.

Presented in repertory by the Sir Peter Hall Company. This production was originally scheduled to open on 5 September 2017.

1999 Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Keli India Theatre Company

Opened 6 July 1999, Closed 17 July 1999 (in repertory) at the Globe Theatre

Kathakai King Lear. The cast featured Kalamandalam Padmanablan Nair as 'King Lear' with Kalamandalam MPS Namboodiri as 'Goneril' and Kalamandalam Manoj Kumar as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Annette Leday and David McRuvie with choreography by Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair and Kalamandalam Padmanablan Nair. Adapted by David McRuvie.

Presented by the Keli India Theatre Company.

1999 Barbican Theatre, RSC

Previewed 22 October 1999, Opened 28 October 1999, Closed 20 November 1999 (in repertory) at the Barbican Theatre

The cast featured Nigel Hawthorne as 'King Lear' with Sian Thomas as 'Goneril' and Hiroyuki Sanada as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Yukio Ninagawa with movement by Suketaro Hanayagi, sets by Yukio Horio, costumes by Lily Komine, lighting by Tamotsu Harada, music by Ryudo Uzaki and sound by Masahiro Inoue.

Co-produced between the Royal Shakespeare Company and Thelma Holt Ltd with Sainokuni Shakespeare Company, HoriPro Inc and Point Tokyo Co Ltd.

2001 Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Previewed 12 May 2001, Opened 22 May 2001, Closed 21 September 2001 (in repertory) at the Globe Theatre

The cast featured Julian Glover as 'King Lear' with Patricia Kerrigan as 'Goneril' and John McEnery as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Barry Kyle with designs by Hayden Griffin and music by Claire van Kampen.

2003 Old Vic Theatre, English Touring Theatre

Previewed 18 March 2003, Opened 25 March 2003, Closed 26 April 2003 at the Old Vic Theatre

The cast featured Timothy West as 'King Lear' with Jessica Turner as 'Goneril' and David Cardy as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Stephen Unwin with sets by Neil Warmington, costumes by Marc Bouman, lighting by Bruno Poet, music by Olly Fox and sound by Duncan Chave.

"The English Touring Theatre production of this play is not one of the great Lears. Most of the time, it isn't even one of the good Lears. But it has the merit of being unpretentious, and it reaches its greatest where the play does too: when the mad Lear and the blind Gloucester meet... The worst thing of this Lear is that too little of it - particularly during the first three acts - is audible. Shakespeare style needs to be adjusted to each auditorium, but this team doesn't seem to have learnt much from touring... When the production relaxes after the storm and becomes more generally audible, its unpretentiousness works well... And though Timothy West's general naturalness of diction has its incidental virtues, he plays the role all on the same small scale. Too unassuming for authority; too reasonable for madness." The Financial Times

"English Touring Theatre can't have needed a pantechnicon when it was trucking its revival of Lear about Britain, picking up topnotch reviews. The decor - sloping boards, a throne, a joint-stool for the hovel-on-the-heath scene, little else - could have fitted into a people carrier. And the reward is pace and fluency and maybe something more... Unwin's production aims to combine physical minimalism with emotional and even metaphysical size and scope. That's a tall order in as reductionist an age as our own, but, thanks to the lead actor, it is successfully achieved. That actor is Timothy West... This is a rich yet intricate performance, epicentre of a revival that includes some irritating cuts and fiddly changes but never loses its grip." The Times

"There's much that is very good about English Touring Theatre's lean, speedy production of King Lear which has come in to the Old Vic - not least its admirable clarity. Shakespeare's tragedy emerges as the tale of an old man who makes one very stupid, hasty decision in trying to divide his kingdom in proportion to how much each of his daughters claims to love him, and so plunges himself into a king-size catastrophe. Timothy West's Lear appears almost to know he's made a terrible mistake from the start, but he can't do anything about it. Instead, he has to go through an appalling learning curve. By the end he discovers, very painfully and very graphically, that love is measured by quality rather than quantity and lies in actions, not words. The process blows his mind, then breaks his heart. West is certainly up to the task - impressive if not great. He makes perfect sense, even through madness, of the journey to self-knowledge through suffering. When, humbled and quiet, he acknowledges 'I am old and foolish', his hard-won wisdom announces itself with pitiful eloquence... Stephen Unwin's competent rather than inspired production is beautifully spoken, but it lacks mood; it's too plain. You can see all too well how this production was neatly packed into the back of a van: one smallish throne for the court scenes, a broken stool for the hovel, leaving ample room for the gorgeous costumes, lots of velvet and baggy breeches... Still, the play is the thing here, and it's a directorial approach to be welcomed." The Mail on Sunday

King Lear in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 18 March 2003, opened on 26 March 2003 and closed on 26 April 2003

2005 Albery Theatre, RSC

Previewed 13 January 2005, Opened 18 January 2005, Closed 5 February 2005 at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre)

The cast featured Corin Redgrave as 'King Lear' with Emily Raymond as 'Goneril' and John Normington as the 'Fool'

Directed by Bill Alexander with sets by Tom Piper, costumes by Kandis Cook, lighting by Tim Mitchell, music by Jonathan Goldstein and sound by David Tinson.

"Many of the themes driving Shakespeare's great tragedy are just as prominent today as when Will wrote King Lear 400 years ago... And when the crazed Lear - trying to help the Earl of Gloucester after his eyes are gouged out by the King's son-in-law - talks of 'madmen leading the blind', plenty of the political decisions of today spring to mind. One has plenty of time for such idle musing during director Bill Alexander's ponderous version of the play -it runs for almost four hours including a much-needed interval. Corin Redgrave, Vanessa's younger brother, seems to grow in stature as an actor as he gets older - at 65 he's probably at his peak - but even he can't hold together a production that lacks any real focus. The costumes are a mish-mash of modern - sort of - styles and the scenery a brick wall in which a jagged hole is torn." The Sun

"There is no mistaking the evident desire to make both the play and the central performance seem fresh and original, but you repeatedly sense perversity rather than profundity, clever ideas rather than heart-felt emotion... The big novelty here is that Lear is presented as a man in vigorous late middle age rather than the octogenarian Shakespeare specified... It's an intriguing reading but one that bears only a tangential relationship to the character Shakespeare actually wrote... This Lear may lack the required grandeur, but his descent into madness is heart-catchingly caught, as are the rapt moments of spiritual illumination... With a running time of four hours this is, for all its occasional merits, an evening that sorely tries the viewer's patience." The Daily Telegraph

King Lear 2005 in London at the Noel Coward Theatre previewed from 13 January 2005, opened on 18 January 2005 and closed on 5 February 2005.

2007 New London Theatre, RSC

Previewed 14 November 2007, Opened 28 November 2007, Closed 12 January 2008 (in repertory) at the New London Theatre (now Gillian Lynne Theatre)

The cast featured Ian McKellen as 'King Lear' with Frances Barber as 'Goneril' and Sylvester McCoy as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Trevor Nunn with designs by Christopher Oram, lighting by Neil Austin, music by Steven Edis and sound by Fergus O'Hare.

The Royal Shakespeare Company present a strictly limited season of two plays, The Seagull and King Lear in London in repertory.

First performed 400 years ago, the tragedy of King Lear remains one of the greatest plays in world drama, as Shakespeare investigates old age, mortality, family and man's need for religious belief and the capacity to endure.

This production was filmed at Pinewood Studios in 2008, broadcast by the BBC and is available on DVD.

"Throughout, McKellen gives a truly king-size performance. Even his snowy white hair is eloquent. Agitated, it stands on end like a dandelion seed. But his slow, anguished, despairing repetition of the word 'never' five times as he struggles to accept that Cordelia, the daughter he holds in his arms, will never take another breath, is the image I shall never forget. Barber's Goneril is a flinty-faced, pursed and puce-lipped Cruella de Vil, but nothing special; Monica Dolan, as her sister, Regan, is much more alarming. She's a big drinker with an alcoholic's unpredictable instability. Her gleeful whooping as Gloucester's eyes are plucked out will give me nightmares. While the actors never fail to give an intelligent reading of their lines, McKellen alone seems genuinely heartfelt." The Mail on Sunday

"It is a production distinguished by energetic intelligence and lucidity: Nunn brings out the symmetries and ironies in the play. And while the storm on the heath commonly rages both outside and within Lear's mind, Nunn has the whole ornate set disintegrate: as Lear crumbles so do his palace, his kingdom and the perceived order of things. Above all Nunn emphasises that this is a journey away from reliance on divine power... McKellen undergoes this rite of passage with immense, quizzical energy. This is a witty Lear, and his spry intelligence makes his journey the more painful as he fights for comprehension at every turn." The Financial Times

"At first Ian McKellen resembles one of those tsars who, even in modern times, believed themselves to be anointed by God and had little but scorn for the poor naked wretches whose desperation Shakespeare's protagonist comes to acknowledge. At any rate, his Lear starts Trevor Nunn's excellent Royal Shakespeare Company production by parading on stage dressed for some magnificent Orthodox ceremony, surrounded by obsequious Russian courtiers and radiating the arrogant complacency that ended the Romanov dynasty... This is a superlative performance from McKellen that has lost nothing with its transfer from Stratford to London... Christopher Oram's set, reminiscent of the balcony of an old theatre, cracks and splinters - symbolising the mind, family, kingdom, planet and universe that Nunn's revival is evoking so memorably." The Times

King Lear in London at the New London Theatre previewed from 14 November 2007, opened on 28 November 2007 and closed on 12 January 2008

2008 Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Previewed 23 April 2008, Opened 2 May 2008, Closed 17 August 2008 (in repertory) at the Globe Theatre

The cast featured David Calder as 'King Lear' with Sally Bretton as 'Goneril' and Danny Lee Wynter as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Dominic Dromgoole with choreography by Sian Williams, designs by Jonathan Fensom and music by Claire van Kampen.

2010 Donmar Warehouse

Previewed 3 December 2010, Opened 7 December 2010, Closed 5 February 2011 at the Donmar Warehouse

The cast featured Derek Jacobi as 'King Lear' with Gina McKee as 'Goneril' and Ron Cook as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Michael Grandage with designs by Christopher Oram, lighting by Neil Austin, and music and sound by Adam Cork.

2011 The Roundhouse, RSC

Previewed 21 January 2011, Opened 25 January 2011, Closed 4 February 2011 (in repetory) at the Roundhouse

The cast featured Greg Hicks as 'King Lear' with Kelly Hunter as 'Goneril' and Sophie Russell as the Fool'.

Directed by David Farr with movement by Ann Yee, designs by Jon Bausor, lighting by Jon Clark, music by Keith Clouston and sound by Christopher Shutt.

This production was first seen at Stratford. On 21 January 2011, just prior to this production's first public preview at London's Roundhouse, Kathryn Hunter resigned from the RSC. The role of the 'Fool' was therefore played by Sophie Russell, with performances continuing as originally scheduled.

2012 Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Belarus Free Theatre

Opened 17 May 2012, Closed 18 May 2012 at the Globe Theatre

The cast featured Aleh Sidorchik as 'King Lear' with Yana Rusakevich as 'Goneril' and Pavel Arakelian as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Vladimir Shcherban. Translated by Yurka Hauruk and adapted by Nicolai Khalezin.

Performed in Belarusian by the Belarus Free Theatre and presened at part of the 2012 Globe to Globe Festival.

2012 Almeida Theatre

Previewed 31 August 2012, Opened 11 September 2012, Closed 3 November 2012 at the Almeida Theatre

The cast featured Jonathan Pryce as 'King Lear' with Zoe Waites as 'Goneril' and Trevor Fox as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Michael Attenborough with movement by Imogen Knight, designs by Tom Scutt, lighting by Jon Clark, and music and sound by Dan Jones.

2013 Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Opened 13 May 2013, Closed 18 May 2013 at the Globe Theatre

The cast featured Joseph Marcell as 'King Lear' with Ruth Everett as 'Goneril' and Bethan Cullinane as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Bill Buckhurst with choreography by Georgina Lamb, designs by Jonathan Fensom and music by Alex Silverman. Small scale production.

2013 Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Belarus Free Theatre

Opened 23 September 2013, Closed 28 September 2013 (in repertory) at the Globe Theatre

The cast featured Aleh Sidorchik as 'King Lear' with Yana Rusakevich as 'Goneril' and Chris Bone as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Vladimir Shcherban. Translated by Yurka Hauruk and adapted by Nicolai Khalezin. Return of 2012 production. Performed in Belarusian by the Belarus Free Theatre and presened at part of the 2013 Globe to Globe Festival.

2014 Olivier Theatre, National Theatre

Previewed 14 January 2014, Opened 23 January 2014, Closed 28 May 2014 (in repertory) at the Olivier Theatre

The cast featured Simon Russell Beale as 'King Lear' with Kate Fleetwood as 'Goneril' and Adrian Scarborough as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Sam Mendes with designs by Anthony Ward, projection Designs by Jon Driscoll, lighting by Paul Pyant, music by Paddy Cunneen and sound by Paul Arditti.

2014 Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Opened 6 August 2014, Closed 23 August 2014 (in repertory) at the Globe Theatre

The cast featured Joseph Marcell as 'King Lear' with Gwendolen Chatfield as 'Goneril' and Bethan Cullinane as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Bill Buckhurst with choreography by Georgina Lamb, designs by Jonathan Fensom and music by Alex Silverman.

Return of 2013 small scale production.

2016 Old Vic Theatre

Previewed 25 October 2016, Opened 4 November 2016, Closed 2 December 2016 at the Old Vic Theatre in London

A major revival of William Shakespeare's King Lear starring Glenda Jackson in the title role and directed by Deborah Warner.

Lear's fall from the noble king to broken man remains one of Shakespeare's most heartbreaking plays. Lear, King of Britain, decides to abdicate and divide his kingdom between his three daughters. But when Cordelia refuses to make a public declaration of love for her father she is disinherited and married to the King of France without a dowry. The Earl of Kent is banished by King Lear for daring to defend Cordelia while the two elder daughters, Goneril and Regan, and their husbands inherit the kingdom.

Now, a quarter of a century after she gave up acting for politics, Glenda Jackson returns to the London West End stage to play the title role in King Lear along with an outstanding company including Celia Imrie as 'Goneril', Jane Horrocks as 'Regan', Rhys Ifans as the 'Fool' and Harry Melling as 'Edgar' with William Chubb as 'Albany', Morfydd Clark as 'Cordelia', David Hargreaves as 'Old Man', Karl Johnson as 'Gloucester', Stephen Kennedy as 'Gentleman', Simon Manyonda as 'Edmond', Gary Sefton as 'Oswald', Danny Webb as 'Cornwall', Sargon Yelda as 'Kent', Fehinti Balogun, Fiston Barek, Bessie Carter, Jonathan Coote, George Eggay, Matt Gavan, Joanne Howarth, Mark Rose and James Staddon.

Directed by Deborah Warner with sets by Jean Kalman and Deborah Warner, costumes by Zeb Lalljee, lighting by Jean Kalman, and music and sound by Mel Mercier.

When this production opened at the Old Vic Theatre in November 2016, Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard praised how "Glenda Jackson's return to the stage is a triumph... Her performance isn't just a remarkable feat of stamina. She finds revealing readings of well-known lines and uses her voice with forensic precision... Glenda Jackson is immense. Even though we're talking about a performer who has won two Oscars, this will surely rate as one of her greatest achievements." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph highlighted that "Glenda Jackson is tremendous as King Lear. No ifs, no buts. In returning to the stage at the age of 80, 25 years after her last performance, she has pulled off one of those 11th-hour feats of human endeavour that will surely be talked about for years to come by those who see it... The rest of the production - a long, but not insufferably so, evening - is a mixed bag." Michael Billington in the Guardian said "it would be easy to regret Glenda Jackson's 25-year absence from the stage but she has lost none of her innovative instinct... Deborah Warner's production offers a clear framework for a shattering performance... Even if Hamlet and Macbeth are greater plays, Jackson's performance catches perfectly the zigzag patterns of Lear's mix of insight and insanity. This is 'reason in madness' to the very life." Ann Treneman in the Times noted that this was "an almost never boring three and a half hours... the themes of Lear - treachery, madness, cruelty, familial deceit and dementia - do not date. The cast is stellar and the brightest of all is Glenda Jackson, returning to the stage at the age of 80... What a comeback. She's fearless here as Lear, hard as nails, furious, capricious but also frail and vulnerable." Neil Norman in the Daily Express thought that "as event theatre for high-minded theatre-goers, it doesn't get much better... Glenda Jackson is studied and meticulous, clapping her hands to punctuate her speeches and exercising her vocal range from querulous fluting to acidic growl." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail wrote: "Glenda Jackson, 80, makes a memorable return to the London stage - as King Lear - after her long, self-banishment to Parliament... Miss Jackson's casting, like much else in Deborah Warner's Brechtian production, could be seen as a cheap stunt... Yet thanks to its magnetic star this show is undeniably theatrical."

Celia Imrie's West End credits include Nicholas De Jongh's play Plague Over England (Duchess Theatre 2009), Victoria Wood's musical Acorn Antiques the Musical (Haymarket Theatre 2005); Jane Horrocks's London stage credits include Ayub Khan Din's East is East (Trafalgar Studio 2014), Alan Ayckbourn's comedy Absurd Person Singular (Garrick Theatre 2007) and Stephen Poliakoff's play Sweet Panic (Duke of York's Theatre 2003); and Harry Melling West End acting credits include Robert Askins' comedy Hand to God (Vaudeville Theatre 2016) and Harold Pinter's play The Hothouse (Trafalgar Studios 2013).

"{Glenda Jackson} is nothing short of commanding, compelling, magnificent. Her diction is flawless and her voice deep but oh so varied: shatteringly savage when she warns Kent not to come between 'a dragon and his wrath' and charges at him with a chair... It's a performance so powerfully eloquent and deeply felt that it more than makes up for the limitations of Warner's distracting excesses, which confine the play to an idiosyncratic concept rather than open up its resonances to, say, the demands of elderly parents or our responsibilities to the homeless... But Jackson's fearless, ferocious ascent of the actor's 'Everest' will prove indelible." The Mail on Sunday

"Glenda Jackson, returning to the stage after 25 years, said she chose to play Lear because it is 'hard'. While coping admirably with the physical demands, she is defeated by the role's passion and poetry. She has odd moments of poignancy with Cordelia and the Fool but the King's titanic rages are reduced to mere sneers and snarls... The production's perversity stretches far beyond the central performance. Edgar and Edmund both bare their bottoms extraneously, with the latter even pleasuring himself during his second soliloquy. No sexual reference passes without its being graphically underlined." The Sunday Express

"What a mighty comeback this is. At the age of 80, and after a 25-year absence from the stage, two-time Oscar winner Glenda Jackson is breathtakingly good as the grief-racked tyrant in Deborah Warner's modern dress production of Shakespeare's epic tragedy. Physically tiny, her legs as thin as emery boards, the former Labour MP uncompromisingly mines the depths to which Lear is betrayed by mind and body. It's a devastatingly full portrait of the terrors of old age. Many an actor has bellowed and boomed their way through Lear but Jackson strips away the bluster. There is nothing self-aggrandising about her performance. She can howl with the best of them but her king is also piteously self-aware. Does her gender make a difference? Not really. Although you feel an icy shiver when Jackson spits a curse of infertility at Goneril, in a way you don't quite when the lines are spoken by a man. Jackson's is not the only memorable performance here. Rhys Ifans brings complex layers to the Fool - a very modern anti-hero who is last seen asleep in a shopping trolley. Harry Melling is a full-on Edgar, Celia Imrie is a chillingly ordinary Goneril and Jane Horrocks is a sexually skittish Regan. Perhaps in the end Warner's production isn't quite monumental - but Jackson's Lear is, unquestionably." The London Metro

King Lear in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 25 October 2016, opened on 4 November 2016 and closed on 2 December 2016

2017 Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Previewed 10 August 2017, Opened 16 August 2017, Closed 14 October 2017 (in repertory) at the Globe Theatre

The cast featured Kevin R McNally as 'King Lear' with Emily Bruni as 'Goneril' and Loren O'Dair as the 'Fool'.

Directed by Nancy Meckler with movement by Shona Morris, designs by Rosanna Vize, lighting by Anna Watson and music by Simon Slater.

2018 Duke of York's Theatre

Previewed 11 July 2018, Opened 25 July 2018, Closed 3 November 2018 at the Duke of York's Theatre in London

A major revival of Shakespeare's King Lear in London starring Ian McKellen

Featuring an intimate staging, this contemporary, dystopian production places audiences at the centre of the storm as family and state are plunged into a violent power struggle with shocking ends.

This production transfers to London's West End following an acclaimed season at the Chichester Festival Theatre's Minerva Theatre in West Sussex.

The cast features Ian McKellen as 'King Lear' with Clare Price as 'Goneril', Lloyd Hutchinson as the 'Fool', Kirsty Bushell 'Regan', Richard Clews as 'Old Man' / 'Gentleman Informer', James Corrigan 'Edmund', Sinead Cusack 'Kent', John Hastings as 'Curan / Doctor', Anthony Howell 'Albany', Jake Mann 'Burgundy', Michael Matus 'Oswald', Daniel Rabin 'Cornwall', Caleb Roberts the 'King of France', Luke Thompson 'Edgar', Anita-Joy Uwajeh as 'Cordelia', and Danny Webb as 'Gloucester'. Directed by Jonathan Munby with movement by Lucy Cunningham, designs by Paul Wills, lighting by Oliver Fenwick, and music and sound by Ben and Max Ringham.

When this production opened at the Duke of York's Theatre in July 2018, Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard said it was "magnificent... Ian McKellen's work is towering, poignant and fearsome as it marks Lear's faltering imperiousness, punctuated by sudden piercing shafts of clarity and self-awareness. He's surrounded by acting of considerable calibre too, not least from Sinéad Cusack as a loyal Kent." Arifa Akbar in the Guardian commented that "the play is indeterminately modern in its setting: the dress code is that of a 1930s drawing room, though the army’s camouflage fatigues and guns suggest a more contemporary era... Whatever its inconsistencies and imperfections, this production still dazzles, McKellen shimmering brightest at its dark, tormented heart." Ben Lawrence in the Daily Telegraph thought that "it's surprising that the one disappointment in Jonathan Munby's otherwise splendid production is the half-hearted attempt to show how external forces, and the precarious position of the state, plague the beleaguered king... Still, this is a production that subtly but devastatingly shows the effects of dementia and of ageing, and that is down to Ian McKellen who, throughout, has carefully shown its gradations as well as its non-linear effects." Sam Marlowe in the Times highlighted that Ian McKellen "is magnificent, capturing with shattering acuity the terrors of mental and physical decline in old age. Yet he's part not only of a near-faultless ensemble, but of a fully realised world, one that, with its deep divisions and sickening sense of political freefall, often resembles our own... this is a staging of exceptional clarity and insight, and it pulses with life and urgency."

When this production opened at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester in September 2017, Neil Norman in the Daily Express praised how "director Jonathan Munby maintains the momentum of a political thriller. He has assembled a crack cast and knows exactly what to do with them," adding that "Ian McKellen is never less than astonishing, underplaying Lear's descent to create a portrait of a pitiful, broken old man that is moving beyond belief. The epic tragedy may be muted as a result but it's a price worth paying. Don't miss." Ann Treneman in the Times wrote that "it's a showy production, not afraid to strut its stuff or make the costume department work overtime." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard said that "Jonathan Munby's modern-dress account, clear-sighted rather than radical, begins with pageantry and ritualistic song. Yet it's satisfyingly brisk... but it is Ian McKellen's detailed performance that's the production's triumph. With finely measured intelligence he traces Lear's inexorable movement from pomp via rage and shambolic delirium to melancholic tenderness and the agony of belated self-knowledge." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times commented how "Jonathan Munby discreetly makes his production the tragedy of growing old in a world where form and certainty alike are shrivelling... Ian McKellen's performance is perfectly pitched to the scale of the space." Gary Shipton in the i newspaper highlighted that "this is Ian McKellen's assured triumph. In an ageing population where dementia now stands as the greatest threat and the young abandon their families to care homes, he captures that conceit between power and decline with a measured elegance that reminds us all that Lear's tragedy is also our own." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph thought that it was a "lucid, insightful, finely acted production." Michael Billington in the Guardian explained that Ian McKellen "not only brings to the role deep theatrical experience but also takes full advantage, in Jonathan Munby's lucid production, of the intimacy of the space. It is like getting, in McKellen's superbly detailed performance, a permanent closeup of a soul in torment... much of the power of McKellen's performance lies in the fact that every scene is given a precise context." Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail described how "the action is driven on as a bleak epic with portentous music, but amid the storm that floods the stage in the first half, it's the vulnerability of Ian McKellen's frail Lear that is this production's shaky centre."

Ian McKellen's West End theatre credits include the role of 'Spooner' in Sean Mathias' revival of Harold Pinter's No Man's Land, with Patrick Stewart as 'Hirst', at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2016; the role of 'Estragon' in Sean Mathias' revival of Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot at the Haymarket Theatre in 2009 and 2010; the role of 'Sorin' in Trevor Nunn's revival of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, with Frances Barber as 'Arkadina', for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the New London Theatre in 2007; the title role in Trevor Nunn's revival of Shakespeare's King Lear, for the Royal Shakespeare Company, at the New London Theatre in 2007; the role of the Dame, 'Widow Twanky', in Sean Mathias' production of Billie Brown's pantomime Aladdin at the Old Vic Theatre in 2004 and 2005; and the role of 'Boy' in Anthony Page's production of Sean Mathias' Cowardice at the Ambassadors Theatre in 1983.

Jonathan Munby's London theatre directing credits include Bryony Lavery's play Frozen, starring Suranne Jones and Jason Watkins, at the Haymarket Theatre in 2018; Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, starring Clive Wood and Eve Best in the title roles, at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in 2014; and co-directing Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Gielgud Theatre in 2006.

This production was originally staged at the small 300-seater studio space, the Minerva Theatre, at the Chichester Festival Theatre (previewed from 22 September 2017, opened 29 September 2017 and closed on 28 October 2017) when the cast featured Ian McKellen as 'King Lear', Dervla Kirwan as 'Goneril', Phil Daniels as the 'Fool', Sinead Cusack as 'Kent' and Danny Webb as 'Gloucester' with Jonathan Bailey, Kirsty Bushell, Richard Clews, John Hastings, Tamara Lawrance, Dominic Mafham, Jake Mann, Michael Matus, Damien Molony, Caleb Roberts and Patrick Robinson.

"Sir Ian McKellen has said it will probably be his last big Shakespearean role, so it's understandable he wants to go out with a bang. And that's exactly what he does. Nearing 80, the acting veteran's Lear ranges from bullying despot to confused yet harmless old man to gentle, distraught father... The setting respects his triumphant return with a walkway stage which creates an intense, intimate atmosphere. While Sir Ian is deservedly the star attraction, he is supported by an impressive cast, including a terrifyingly perverse Kirsty Bushell as scheming middle daughter Regan, whose delight in watching the Earl of Gloucester's eyes being bloodily plucked out is truly chilling." The Sunday Mirror

"As well as his celebrated turns as Gandalf and Magneto, Sir Ian McKellen played two roles in King Lear - Edgar and Kent - before giving us his first lead 10 years ago in a flamboyant production by Trevor Nunn for the Royal Shakespeare Company... Now, a decade later, we have a more measured production from Jonathan Munby at Chichester Festival Theatre... In fact, there's less extremism all round, less howling on the heath and more melancholy rumination from the old, dispossessed king... There's a faint hint that this version wants you to see this division of Britain as an echo of the terrible apocalypse that will be visited on the world by Brexit... On the whole, though, this is a far more thoughtful and nuanced production, too sensible to reduce the greatest play ever written to a footling little echo of the theatre world's priggish disapproval of an independent Britain or, as Keane puts it, 'the troubled times we live in'. McKellen's Lear is from the start a notably frail, feeble monarch, a wobbly-kneed, flattery-hungry old fool who just doesn't know what he's doing. He will learn, though, as the play proceeds, and the manner of his learning will be sheer agony to watch. Ignorance would have been bliss, but life doesn't allow it for long... It's McKellen's marvellous versatility and gentle nobility that make this such a memorable production: the mild wistfulness with which he says 'Let me not be mad, not mad', or the vague smile when he is reunited with Gloucester, two hobbling derelicts on a country road, the direct ancestors of Beckett's desolate tramps." The Sunday Times

"The ailing actor-manager in Ronald Harwood's The Dresser, who is touring wartime Britain in a production of King Lear, describes the title role as 'the severest test known to an actor'. Sir Ian McKellen first took that test 10 years ago in Trevor Nunn's overelaborate RSC production. He returns to it in Jonathan Munby's more modest staging but, although he achieves a higher grade, it remains a B. His King Lear is an assured and generous performance with a rare degree of humour. At first it seems that his composure as he banishes Cordelia and Kent is an interesting character choice but it grows clear that it springs from a failure to plumb the depths or hit the heights of the role... Like its protagonist, the production is intelligent and well-spoken but muted and uninvolving. The modern dress setting works well except in the over-emphatic invocation of the gods. When he does aim for effect as in the torrential storm scene, Munby leaves one more concerned for the state of the stage than the state of Lear's mind." The Sunday Expres

"It has been ten years since Ian McKellen last played King Lear. Then the X-Men and Lord Of The Rings star stripped naked for the storm scene, baring every inch to the elements. This time he is dressed to the nines yet drenched to the skin, his saturated suit clinging to him like a shower curtain. By coincidence it looks like Jonathan Munby's thriller-paced and intimate production has the same modernising idea as the forthcoming BBC version of Shakespeare's tragedy starring Anthony Hopkins. This stage version is also set in today's Britain. Lear's right-hand-man Kent is a woman, played by Sinead Cusack, and there is a strong impression of not just a man, but a country in the grip of madness. The thinking is clear: an unhinged leadership has created a political climate in which the scheming Edmund and the barbarity of Lear's pitiless daughters can thrive. On the big screen McKellen's Gandalf and Magneto were masters of the inscrutable close-up. But on this small stage, McKellen meticulously explores Lear's delusions of grandeur. Just one gripe. Even at his most vulnerable, McKellen is difficult to like. Where we should grieve with his Lear, we merely sympathise. But the transformation from monarch to shuffling wreck is a complete portrait of decline, not just of a man, but of a nation too." The London Metro

King Lear in London at the Duke of York's Theatre previewed from 11 July 2018, opened on 25 July 2018 and closed on 3 November 2018