Theatre: King Lear, National Theatre, London SE1 (0171-928 2252)
Saturday 22 March 1997
A few years back, everywhere you looked there was a Lear. Anyone old enough to have fathered three daughters of marriageable age was playing the only role which is the same as a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Eric Porter, Anthony Hopkins, John Wood and Brian Cox divided up their kingdoms, had a good yell on the heath, staggered around with a lightweight actress in their arms, died and took the applause.
"Playing Lear is not as enjoyable as playing Falstaff," wrote Robert Stephens, "he's not as loveable and he has far fewer jokes." Despite such misgivings, Stephens crowned his career with a performance which everyone praised to the skies. Had I been fortunate enough to see it, even I might have been moved. I say this because Lear usually leaves me cold. My fault, to be sure, but I'm usually too overawed by the play to be transported by its undoubted emotional power. The exceptions were Reimann's stunning opera at ENO, which doesn't really count, and Deborah Warner's underrated National Theatre production with Brian Cox which played in tandem with Richard Eyre's Richard III, the inspiration for the McKellen film version.
The National is now previewing Eyre's Lear with the great Ian Holm, who in the 1960s and 1970s appeared in the first productions of every new play you can think of. Stage fright restricted him to the TV and movie screen for far too long - but Pinter lured him back, a few years ago, with Moonlight. He was last seen playing opposite his wife, Penelope Wilton, in Pinter's production of his own play, Landscape.
An actor of immense restraint and quiet authority - remember his scalding pain and frustration in Dance with a Stranger - this collaboration promises the sweet smell of success. So much so that the entire production is sold out, but day seats and returns are still available.
EYE ON THE NEW
Recent South African history displays urgent links between sport and politics, but people all too readily deny the political dimension to theatre. Augusto Boal, one of this century's most important theatre practitioners leads a debate at the RSC on the relationship between theatre and politics, with Janet Suzman, Tariq Ali, Jatinder Verma, RSC director Michael Boyd and Labour's Mark Fisher, MP.
Barbican Theatre, London EC1, (0171 638 8891), tomorrow 5-7pm
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 3 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 5 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Avengers: Age of Ultron set to make box office history with $84.5m US opening
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
The highly NSFW poster for Gaspar Noé's Love makes Nymphomaniac look like 50 Shades
New on Netflix UK May 2015: From Fast & Furious 6 to World War Z and Grace and Frankie
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
Indonesia executions live: 'Hysterical' families heard prisoners being shot dead by firing squad
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds