The first performance of King Lear took place in 1606 barely three years after James IV of Scotland had inherited the English throne and styled himself James I of ‘Great Britain’. James’ factual unification of the kingdom is in marked contrast to the fictional King Lear who sets out ineptly to divide his kingdom between his three daughters with tragic results.
A prospective king has just left our shores; Charles is Duke of Cornwall, an ancient title conferred by James on his son Henry in 1603. It may be that Charles will live to see a break-up of Great Britain if the Scottish nationalists maintain their misguided romantic notions of independence, hopefully with less drastic outcomes than in Lear’s kingdom.
King Lear returns to the stage this month when the STC presents a starry production to be directed by Neil Armfield with Geoffrey Rush as the hapless king. Previous partnerships between Armfield and Rush have been strikingly successful, especially at the Belvoir. Surprisingly Rush hasn’t appeared for the STC since 1993 when he played opposite a then unknown Cate Blanchett in Oleanna. The role of Lear will test Geoffrey Rush as it tests all who take it on; the director will need to curb some of his mannerisms which fleetingly seem to channel Ruth Cracknell. The Fool, the character with some of the best lines, will be played by Robyn Nevin who was Queen Lear in a poorly reviewed Melbourne production in 2012.
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