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Sir Nigel to play `Lear' in Japan

SIR NIGEL Hawthorne is to star as King Lear in a production of the play by the Japanese director, Yukio Ninagawa.

Sir Nigel's first leading stage role since his knighthood will be one of the highlights of the coming Royal Shakespeare Company season. The RSC is co-producing the play with Thelma Holt, a West End theatre producer.

A Japanese actor will play the Fool, and the production will open in Japan in September before transferring to the Barbican in London and then to Stratford-upon-Avon.

Announcing the RSC's winter season yesterday, the anniversary of Shakespeare's birthday, Adrian Noble, artistic director, said the success of the film Shakespeare in Love "can do nothing but good for the theatre". Twenty of the actors in Shakespeare in Love had "considerable RSC pedigrees" and most of the costumes were hired from its wardrobes.

He added: "I think the cinema has just about caught up with this matter of Shakespeare. In the 19th century the great popular art form in Europe was opera and the composers like Puccini and Verdi pillaged Shakespeare for stories, themes and characters."