William Shakespeare’s unrelenting tragedy King Lear is widely considered one of the playwright’s most enduring and haunting works for the stage. The challenge of playing its title role has been taken on by some of the greatest actors of our time — Orson Welles, Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Ian Holm and James Earl Jones, to name only a few. The play opens with Lear’s proposal to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, according to how much each can profess her love for him, spiraling forward to dramatize the king’s deception, betrayal and eventual descent into madness. In March 2007, Britain’s renowned Royal Shakespeare Company launched a worldwide tour of the work, beginning in the Bard’s hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon, with the production subsequently presented to great critical acclaim at New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music. The telecast, co-directed by Sir Trevor Nunn and Chris Hunt, marks Ian McKellen’s return to the RSC after a 17-year hiatus, a welcome homecoming that has resulted in his tour-de-force performance as Lear.
King Lear airs for SundayArts on April 5, 2009 at noon. Watch a preview here.