I went to see King Lear, another one of the thrilling broadcasts of London drama, that one may occasionally catch in the US. They are always thrilling, and give us Yanks a chance to affordably see productions that you could otherwise never get a ticket for in ten thousand years. This production, starring Sir Ian McKellen in the title role, is not to be missed.
You can count on England’s National Theatre to do the Bard properly, and McKellan has played Lear many times. He’s been specializing lately in playing old protagonists, and this is dream casting. Now in his 80s, he’s perfect in the role. Now doddery, then terrifying, collapsing into madness and then slipping back out again, he does full justice to Shakespeare’s greatest monarch.
Colorblind and gender-blind casting is all the rage now, and in this production Kent is a countess of lyrical sympathy. Cordelia, played by a beautiful black actress, is even more convincing in the role of a military officer invading Albion. Period doublets and hose have to be left to the Globe; when the NT does Shakespeare they tend to go for modern costuming. Cordelia wears camo and a military beret, but her shoulder patches say FRANCE, so perfect.