‘Tis the season of King Lear. In September, Richard Eyre’s BBC adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, set in an imaginary totalitarian counterpart of contemporary London and starring Anthony Hopkins in the title role, was released on Amazon Prime to critical acclaim. Next April, Glenda Jackson, who played Lear in London two years ago—the first time that a famous English-speaking female actor has assumed the part widely thought to be the most difficult of all classical stage roles—is bringing the play to Broadway in a new production staged by Sam Gold.
Jackson’s version will be of special significance because King Lear has been staged on Broadway only twice in the past six decades, with Lee J. Cobb in 1968 and Christopher Plummer in 2004. Moreover, no earlier Broadway Lear was at all notable save for Orson Welles’s notorious and disastrous self-directed 1956 production, of which Simon Callow, his biographer, said, “they racked the critical thesaurus to denounce.”