GLENDA JACKSON – “KING LEAR”

Legendary British actress Glenda Jackson is currently starring in “King Lear” on Broadway. Join us for an intimate conversation with the Academy and Tony Award-winning former member of the British Parliament.

Aired May 7, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> THEY KILL US FOR THEIR SPORT.

THAT ONE LINE SPOKEN IN SHAKESPEARE'S KING LEAR PERHAPS BEST SUMMARIZED AS THEY WATCH THIS GREAT TRAGEDY UNFOLD.

THERE'S A NEW PRODUCTION OF LEAR NOW PLAYING AT THE COURT THEATER AND ACCORDING TO 'THE WALL STREET JOURNAL,' PARTS OF IT WILL, QUOTE, SEAR THEMSELVES INTO YOUR MEMORY LIKE MENTAL PICTURES OF AN UNIMAGINABLE DISASTER.

GLENDA JACKSON IN KING LEAR.

SHE JOINS US NOW.

MISS JACKSON, WELCOME BACK TO THE PROGRAM.

NICE TO BE HERE.

WHEN I STUDIED LEAR IN COLLEGE, I KNEW THAT THE EXPERTS CONSIDERED IT, OR MOST EXPERTS CONSIDERED IT SHAKESPEARE'S GREATEST TRAGEDY IF NOT GREATEST PLAY BUT I DIDN'T LIKE IT.

WHAT I SAW WAS THIS CHILDISH DESPOT WHO CLEARLY WAS NEVER CONTRADICTED IN HIS OWN LIFE AND WHOSE OWN FOOLISH DECISIONS AND ACTIONS LED TO HIS TRAGIC UNDOING AND THE UNDOING OF THE ONE PERSON PERHAPS THAT HE LOVED MOST IN THE WORLD.

SO I SAID, YOU KNOW, KARMA.

40 YEARS LATER, I AGREE WITH THE EXPERTS BECAUSE WHAT I SEE NOW IS LEAR, LIKE ALL OF US, NOT SEEING THE CONSEQUENCES OF HIS ACTIONS UNTIL IT'S TOO LATE TO AVOID SUFFERING AND DISASTERS AND THAT'S ALWAYS BEEN THE CASE AND ALWAYS WILL BE THE CASE.

AND IT'S A SERIOUS TRUTH TO CONFRONT, IF YOU'VE BEEN AROUND FOR A FEW YEARS AND MADE A FEW TERRIBLE DECISIONS AND ENDURED CONSEQUENCES.

I WONDER IF YOUR VIEW OF LEAR EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS.

AN UNDENIABLE PART OF THE GENIUS OF SHAKESPEARE IS THAT HE REALLY ONLY EVER ASKS THREE QUESTIONS.

WHO ARE WE, WHY ARE WE, WHAT ARE WE?

AND THEN NO ONE HAS TRULY COME UP WITH THE COMPREHENSIVE ANSWERS YET BUT THE THING IS HUMAN NATURE IS IMMUTABLE.

THE CONTEMPORARY TROUPES IN THIS PLAY REFLECTED AS WE LIVE OUR LIVES NOW ARE JUST STAGGERING, ACTUALLY, AND WE DON'T CHANGE.

HOPEFULLY WE CAN WITH KNOWLEDGE AND REASON TO MISQUOTE, MAKE THE HUMAN CONDITION BETTER THAN IT IS FOR ALL HUMAN BEINGS.

BUT OUR OWN INDIVIDUAL HUMAN NATURES DON'T CHANGE, IN THAT, YOU THINK OVER TIME THAT WE LEARN.

WHO WAS IT, THE MADNESS IS MAKING THE SAME MISTAKE TIME AFTER TIME, EXPECTING A BETTER RESULT AND ALWAYS GETTING THE SAME RESULT.

AGAIN, I'M MISQUOTING, BUT THAT'S WHAT WE DO AND WHAT HE DOES, AND HE'S NOT A BAD MAN, HE'S NOT A VICIOUS MAN.

IT'S JUST THAT, AS YOU QUITE RIGHTLY SAID, HE'S BEEN RAISED HIS WHOLE LIFE, NO ONE EVER SAID NO TO HIM.

BUT THAT'S A REFLECTION OF THE WORLD THAT HE INHABITS AND WE ALL INHABIT WORLDS THAT HAVE THEIR OWN IMMUTABLE STRUCTURES, DON'T WE, AND IT DOES, ONE OF THE REALLY INTERESTING THINGS FOR ME WHEN I WAS STILL A MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, WHICH I USED WHEN SOMEBODY SAID YOU SHOULD DO THIS PLAY, AS WE GET OLDER, THE KIND OF GENDER BARRIERS THAT ARE SO ABSOLUTE FOR US BEGIN TO FRAY, FRACTURE, BEGIN TO BE FOGGY.

I THOUGHT, YEAH, YOU KNOW, WE TEACH BABIES HOW TO BE BOYS AND GIRLS AND THEN LIVING LONGER AND LONGER.

ALL THESE THINGS BEGIN TO BE, NOT DIRECTLY QUESTIONABLE.

IT MAY BE PHYSICAL CHANGES AS MUCH AS ANYTHING BUT REALLY FASCINATING NOW.

SPEAKING OF THAT, LAST TIME YOU WERE HERE, WE SPOKE ABOUT, OR YOU TOLD US, THAT YOU DIDN'T THINK THERE WERE ANY MORE SERIOUS ROLES THAN WHEN YOU BEGAN BUT IN THIS PLAY, YOU PLAY LEAR AND THE WONDERFUL SHAI PLAYS GLOUCESTER AND ELIZABETH PLAYED MARK ANTHONY AND JULIUS CAESAR.

IS THIS THE WAY TO COMPENSATE FOR THE LACK OF ROLES INCREASINGLY?

CERTAINLY IN MY COUNTRY, WE HAD VERY OVERT KIND OF GENDER BENDER MOVEMENT.

THIS COMPANY FORMED FOR ALL WOMEN AND THEY STARTED OUT BY DOING ALL SHAKESPEARE HISTORY PLAYS.

IMAGINE THAT, YOU KNOW, AND THEY WERE HUGELY SUCCESSFUL.

AND IN ONE SENSE, I THINK THAT GENDER BENDER BATTLE HAS BEEN WON IN A SENSE.

IT'S JUST EXPANDING IT THROUGH.

I MEAN, YEAH, LET'S HAVE A LOOK AT ALL OF THE SHAKESPEAREAN PLAYS, YOU KNOW, AND GREAT PARTS IN THERE.

THE FACT THAT NO WOMAN EVER STEPPED ON TO A STAGE IN SHAKESPEARE'S TIMES TOO WITH THESE ROLES, WE CAN GRACEFULLY SLIDE OVER THAT BUT YES, IT WOULD BE INTERESTING BECAUSE THE PLAYS THEMSELVES ARE SO FUNDAMENTALLY FASCINATING.

MISS JACKSON, READING ABOUT YOU FOR THIS INTERVIEW AND THE ONE WE DID LAST TIME, ONE THING WAS MADE VERY CLEAR TO ME.

YOU HAVE A FIERCE WORK ETHIC.

AND THAT, FOR YOU, WHAT YOU DO WITH THE TOUGH JOB IS JUST DO IT.

ABSOLUTELY.

BUT THIS IS A TOUGH JOB.

PERFORMING LEAR, EVEN A NAVY SEAL WOULD HAVE TROUBLE.

OH, COME ON.

EIGHT PERFORMANCES A WEEK?

HOW DO YOU FIND THE ENERGY?

THE ENERGY IS IN THE PLAY.

ONCE WE TAP INTO IT, IF WE TAP INTO IT, THAT ENERGY TAKES YOU FORWARD, LIKE A JET PLANE OR A REALLY FAST CAR.

AND WE HAVE A VERY GOOD CAST.

THAT SHARED ENERGY IS THERE FOR ALL OF US AND IT'S TERRIFIC.

BY THE WAY, HOW DO YOU FIND THE AUDIENCES RESPONDING TO THIS PRODUCTION?

HOW DO THEY COMPARE TO BRITISH AUDIENCES?

IT'S HARD TO MAKE A COMPARISON WITH THIS PARTICULAR PLAY BUT THE FIRST PLAY I EVER DID IN NEW YORK, I WAS WITH THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY AND WE BROUGHT A PLAY, A BROADWAY, AND WE PLAYED THAT IN REPERTOIRE IN LONDON, TWO TOTALLY SILENT AUDIENCES.

NOT A SOUND UNTIL THE END OF THE PLAY WHEN THEY -- THERE WAS MUSIC IN THE PLAY AND SO WE WOULD GO ON TO THE STAGE AND THE FIRST SONG, ENCORE.

APPLAUSE.

WE GOT LAUGHS.

CONSTANT RESPONSE TO WHAT WE WERE DOING.

WE CAME UP, LOOKING AT EACH OTHER, WHAT ARE WE DOING?

IT WAS JUST SO DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT THAN WHAT WE WERE USED TO AT HOME.

THAT'S ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS ABOUT AMERICAN AUDIENCES.

THEY LIKE YOU TO KNOW THAT THEY'RE THERE.

I DON'T MEAN THEY HECKLE OR MAKE NOISES OR THINGS LIKE THAT.

I DON'T MEAN THAT.

THERE'S JUST SENSE THEY'RE THERE AND THEY'RE WATCHING.

WHAT IS TOTALLY FASCINATING ABOUT THIS PLAY, AND ACTUALLY NOW I THINK ABOUT IT, IN ENGLAND TOO, THE CAPACITY FOR THE PLAY TO REALLY CONNECT WITH THE AUDIENCE IS POTENT.

YOU CAN FEEL THEM LISTENING.

AND YOU CAN ACTUALLY, HE SAYS, DOESN'T HE, IN THE PLAY.

WELL, HE DOES.

HE SAYS, LOOK WITH THINE EARS AND THAT'S WHAT THEY DO AND THAT, AGAIN, IS ENERGY THAT COMES BACK TO THE STAGE AND THAT'S AMAZING.

THIS PRODUCTION RUNS THROUGH JULY 7th?

I THINK JULY 7th.

AFTER THAT, YOU HAVE ANY PROJECTS?

NO, NO, NO.

BUT THEN ALL MY LIFE, I MEAN, EVERY JOB I'VE EVER DONE IN THE THEATER.

THE LAST NIGHT YOU THINK, WELL, THAT'S IT.

I'M NEVER GOING TO WORK AGAIN.

WELL, MISS JACKSON, IT'S BEEN AN HONOR AND A PLEASURE.

OH, HOW KIND.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

'KING LEAR' STARRING GLENDA JACKSON.

FOR MORE, VISIT OUR WEB SITE, METROFOCUS.ORG.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

WNET

© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019