Jonathan Pryce's 'horrible, beautiful' Lear at the Almeida

Sep 17, 2012

Jonathan Pryce is thrilling and deeply moving in Shakespeare's great family tragedy

Almeida theatre

What you need to know
Michael Attenborough directs the new production of Shakespeare's great tragedy King Lear for the Almeida theatre. Award-winning actor Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, Pirates of the Carribean) stars in the title role of Lear.
When the ageing King Lear asks each of his daughters to profess their love for him, he is flattered by the false adoration of Regan and Goneril, but angered by the faint praise of his youngest daughter Cordelia and banishes her. He realises his mistake too late, and after being forced from power by his ungrateful daughters, descends into madness.
Phoebe Fox plays the dutiful Cordelia. Zoe Waites is Goneril and Jenny Jules plays Regan. Runs until 3 November.

What the critics like
Pryce gives a striking, individualistic performance in a carefully considered production by Attenborough, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. This is a Lear that deals with family breakdown rather than cosmic disintegration and the central performance is "absolutely right".
Pryce is both thrilling and deeply moving as Lear, says Charles Spencer in The Daily Telegraph. As he rages in the storm, "he brilliantly captures both the torment and the sudden glimmers of truth and humanity that Lear discovers in his insanity".  

Attenborough impresses with his lucid production of this magnificently strange tragedy, says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. Pryce is compelling - good as a jovial madman, but "simply brilliant" holding dead Cordelia and wailing in a moment of realization. "It's horrible, it's beautiful, it's what you come to Lear to see."
What they don't like
It's an impressive, lucid Lear but stops short of the devastating abandon and emotional extremity that the tragedy requires, says Paul Taylor in The Independent. Too evenly paced and unevenly cast, this is a moving Lear, "but neither performance nor production execute the full Monty".

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