Review · Simply Shakespeare · Theatre

Simply Shakespeare #22 – King Lear @ The Duke Of York Theatre Starring Ian McKellen – Review

Last weekend I had the best time with my mum and her bestie going to London to see Ian McKellen as King Lear at the Duke Of York Theatre! I really enjoyed it and will try and put my thoughts into a blog post!…

The key to the success of a Shakespeare play for me is measured in the concept chosen by the director. I was so thrilled that Jonathan Munby chose a much more modern take without including too much of today’s luxuries like the internet and mobile phones. I personally found it hard to pinpoint the exact time frame but that didn’t bother me and I enjoyed relaxing into the play without having to struggle through a muddled concept.

The set was simple with accents like the odd chandelier or lighting change to show where we were. These scenes were set by prompt scene changes perfectly teamed up with the sounds team to make seamless transitions that felt almost magical. Blackout, one second and suddenly we’re in a forest. It was just great and symbolised the finesse employed by all the team behind this production.

Lloyd Hutchinson and Ian McKellen in King Lear at the Duke of York's Theatre, London. Photo: Johan Persson

Of course the casting of Ian McKellen was the flagship of this production but to me, it was merely the tip of the iceberg of the brilliance of this production. He was of course, completely sublime as everyone knew he would be but in all my theatre watching history have I ever been so memorised by an actor’s performance. He set the bar high and for the most part, the rest of the cast reached the bar. Highlights for me were Luke Thompson as Edgar who introduced me to a new favourite Shakespeare character and Kirsty Bushell as Reagan who was fierce, sexy and made me want to read all about her character!

I really do love a good Shakespearean tragedy ad I decided to go into this blind, having not read or watched this play before, I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep up. It’s a credit to the cast and production team that I was right there all the time. I was completely engulfed on the story unfolding in front of me on the stage and I didn’t want it to end. I could have watched it over and over. As a drama graduate, it’s hard for me to get so engulfed in a play. Usually I’m looking out for how they do things like the SFX or the characterisation, but watching made me feel like I was reading my favourite book. A scene that really stood out to me was the forest in the storm seen as the cast got soaked and water collected in stage and I was reminded of the apocalyptic absurdist theatre that came centuries after this play was first performed.

I feel really lucky that I can say that this is how I first experienced Lear and I did shed a tear when we all stood up to cheer for Ian. It made me immediately pick up A.C Bradley’s lectures and made me fall in love with Shakespeare’s work and how relevant it is today all over again.


Were you lucky to get tickets or see a screening? Let me know down below! Thank you for joining me this week! If you would like to get involved in Simply Shakespeare, send me an email at with Simply Shakespeare as the subject and I’ll get the details to you! Or you can contact me on Twitter.

Follow me on twitter for updates on what I’m reading. Look at the Book Club here.

Thank you lovelies and happy reading! ox


3 thoughts on “Simply Shakespeare #22 – King Lear @ The Duke Of York Theatre Starring Ian McKellen – Review

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