King Lear

By William Shakespeare

Minerva Theatre
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Ian McKellen reigns supreme in this triumphant production

Daily Telegraph

Ian McKellen's detailed, intelligent performance is a triumph

Evening Standard

Intensely moving

The Stage

Nuanced and powerful




Smart, lucid, superbly detailed

i Newspaper
Financial Times

Two ageing fathers - one a King, one his courtier - reject the children who truly love them. Their blindness unleashes a tornado of pitiless ambition and treachery - and their worlds crumble.

Tender, violent, moving and shocking, King Lear is considered by many to be the greatest tragedy ever written. This will be an explosive, charged and contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s epic masterpiece in the intimate setting of the Minerva Theatre.

Jonathan Munby directs, following his acclaimed production of First Light for Festival 2016. His work for Shakespeare’s Globe includes All the Angels, The Merchant of Venice and Antony and Cleopatra; his recent work for the RSC includes Wendy & Peter Pan.

The ensemble of actors includes Ian McKellen, who last appeared at Chichester in The Syndicate in 2011.


Prologue tickets now on sale


Ian McKellen reigns supreme in this triumphant production. The chamber setting undoubtedly plays to his strengths as an understated, often exhilaratingly rapid speaker of Shakespeare’s verse.

Daily Telegraph

Ian McKellen adds to the roster of his greatest achievements with this extraordinarily moving portrayal of King Lear.


When a performance is as voraciously anticipated as Ian McKellen’s portrayal of King Lear there is an inevitable risk that reality must defeat expectation. But McKellen does not disappoint. Nor is he abandoned to the audience alone. The distinguished supporting cast ranges from Dervla Kirwan to Sinead Cusack. Director Jonathan Munby avoids all the inherent traps. The modern setting, raw and visually potent, reinforces the enduring relevance of Shakespeare’s emotional truth.

i Newspaper

The supporting roles are luxuriously cast. Sinéad Cusack brings radiant authority and then a rugged abruptness to Lear’s loyal retainer Kent. Dervla Kirwan is a memorably glacial Goneril, and Kirsty Bushell’s shimmying Regan is a chilling mix of glee and twitchy malice, while rising star Tamara Lawrance has a restrained dignity as their noble-hearted, modest sister Cordelia.

Jonathan Bailey’s Edgar is a touching study of transformation — from naive innocence into morally serious worldliness — and Damien Molony captures the self-seeking resentment of his half-brother Edmund. As the Fool, Phil Daniels makes a strong initial impression, strumming a banjo ukulele, and Danny Webb, who less than a year ago played the brutish Cornwall in Deborah Warner’s staging at the Old Vic, is now superb as his victim, the complacent yet ultimately courageous Gloucester.

But it is McKellen’s detailed performance that’s the production’s triumph. With finely measured intelligence he traces Lear’s inexorable movement from pomp via rage and shambolic delirium to melancholy tenderness and the agony of belated self-knowledge.

Evening Standard

This King Lear is an intensely moving experience, not just for its piercing portrait of advancing mortality and a man losing his grip both on power and of himself, but also for the melancholic weight of age that McKellen inevitably now brings to it.

Jonathan Munby's production has the drive and cross-cut dramatic urgency of a Netflix thriller. Oliver Fenwick's lighting and the music by Ben and Max Ringham become like additional characters populating and animating the stage. It is also blessed with luxury casting throughout.

The Stage

In Jonathan Munby’s thriller-paced and intimate production, McKellen meticulously explores Lear’s delusions of grandeur. The transformation from monarch to shuffling wreck is a complete portrait of decline, not just of a man, but of a nation too.


Ian McKellen delivers a profound portrait of a soul in torment. Jonathan Munby’s smart, lucid production features plenty of pomp and circumstance, and a superbly detailed performance by McKellen.


Munby maintains the momentum of a political thriller

Daily Express

Sinead Cusack shines as Lear’s devoted servant, Kent.


Danny Webb’s Gloucester is among the finest I have seen, compact of dignity and decency and thus much more desolate after he is blinded. As the treacherous Edmund, Damien Molony is fluent and downright casual in his serial wickednesses, almost sociopathic.

Financial Times

Clear, thoughtful, terrifically well-paced

Mail on Sunday

Thoughtful and nuanced

Sunday Times

It's not just about McKellen's performance though, as good as it is. There's an excellent supporting cast: Damien Molony's smooth-talking Irish charmer of an Edmund – it's easy to see why so many fall for his deceptions; Jonathan Bailey's noble Edgar, and Phil Daniels' music-hall entertainer of a Fool.

Particularly strong are the trio of daughters all of whom dazzle in their own way: the heartfelt simplicity of Tamara Lawrance's Cordelia, the controlled Goneril of Dervla Kirwan and, best of all, Kirsty Bushell's psychopathic Regan, dancing with sexual frenzy at Gloucester's blinding. Kent has become a countess, and it's a change that works well: her sympathy for Cordelia looks more natural in the male-dominated world of Lear's court. But Munby's eye for detail highlights even minor cast members, notably Michael Matus's creepily unctuous Oswald.

Paul Wills' deceptively simple set serves as palace and hovel, and transports us from heath to Dover cliffs in an instant. The action is also complemented by an atmospheric score from Ben and Max Ringham.


Cast & Creatives


Cast List

Jonathan Bailey


Kirsty Bushell


Sinéad Cusack


Richard Clews

Old Man and Gentleman Informer

Phil Daniels


John Hastings

Curan and Doctor

Dervla Kirwan


Tamara Lawrance


Dominic Mafham


Jake Mann


Michael Matus


Ian McKellen

King Lear

Damien Molony


Caleb Roberts

King of France

Patrick Robinson


Danny Webb


Creative team

Cast List

Jonathan Munby


Paul Wills


Oliver Fenwick

Lighting Designer

Ben and Max Ringham

Music and Sound

Lucy Cullingford

Movement Director

Kate Waters

Fight Director

Anne McNulty

Casting Director




Running Time
3 hours 20 minutes including one interval