King Lear

Danny Sapani (Misfits, Killing Eve, Black Panther, the National Theatre’s Medea) is King Lear in this intricate, striking production directed by Yaël Farber.

A bold, intelligent, gripping staging, with an incredible cast.

From the beginning, we are invited into an intensely cinematic experience: an eerie hum emanates from Merle Hensel’s magnificent set — brutalist and elegant, glinting and rusting — as the audience file into the historic auditorium. It is lit with artistry and precision by lighting designer Lee Curran, who creates space and atmosphere perfectly.

The casting is great, and each of Shakespeare's fourteen characters is interrogated and represented with inspiring attention to detail: not one is sidelined. We see a mostly restrained Lear constantly battling with a volcanic inner rage and a pathological denial of his old age played by Sapani with brilliance. Above all, the Fool (played by Clarke Peters) is elevated to an omniscient, otherworldly presence. He is wonderfully infuriating and yet is the one character who escapes Lear’s fiery rage.

The dialogue between Lear and the Fool is presented with effortless grace and impact. Clarke Peters’ delivery as the Fool is spot-on, always masterfully balancing profundity and nonsense, consistently stealing the stage. Faber turns these scenes of comedic interlude laced with meaning into a moving, almost transcendental theatrical experience. She reminds us that no matter how many times a scene may have been performed, each production is an opportunity for the text to find new meaning, new resonance, and new shades of character.

In these scenes, and in the superbly directed scene where Kent is put in stocks, a great deal of the magnetising tension is created by Max Perryment’s beautiful minimalist soundtrack.

The standout moments are truly groundbreaking, but they are in the company of a few more disappointing scenes, especially after the interval as the pace slows. There is a physical theatre depiction of the knights “hunting” which falls flat simply because the performers are holding back. There is a similar problem in the fight scenes and in Edmund’s (Fra Fee) first exchange with Edgar. The carefully choreographed blocking illustrates Edmund’s free-spirit energy but also holds back the actor from generating this energy for himself.

Standout performers in the ensemble cast include Gloria Obianyo, whose extraordinary singing voice and nuanced performance leaves the audience wanting more. Akiya Henry and Faith Omole, as Goneril and Regan, burn bright from start to finish, and the relationships between the three sisters show a tender attention to detail. Alec Newman’s portrayal of Kent is masterful, and Matthew Tennyson impressively tracks the Edgar's transformation into Poor Tom.

A worthy staging of Shakespeare’s epic tragedy, this production falls short of being an instant Almeida classic.

Reviews by Tom Shortland

Almeida Theatre

King Lear

★★★★
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★★★★
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★★★★
Multiple Venues

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★★★★

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The Blurb

Nothing will come of nothing. We all must face the moment of truth that we won’t live forever. Lear, father and king of unquestioned power, must divide his realm between his three daughters. The first two quickly declare the love he is desperate to hear, yet his favourite Cordelia shuns the performative circus. “Nothing” she answers, when asked to speak. And towards that nothing Lear’s world begins to slide. As the new generation unleashes the consequences of their father’s choices, Lear take

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