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The Reviews Are In: Tony Winner Glenda Jackson in ‘King Lear’

Category Broadway

|by ShowTickets Editors |

Here’s what critics thought of the revival of Shakespeare’s classic

On April 5, the latest revival of King Lear opened at Broadway’s Cort Theatre. Helmed by Tony-winning Fun Home director Sam Gold, and starring Tony Winner Glenda Jackson as the titular monarch, the new production features contemporary dress and, in addition to Jackson as Lear, several other actresses in roles traditionally portrayed by men. What did critic’s make of the newest Broadway staging of Shakespeare’s classic? Read on for excerpts from 8 critics’ reviews of King Lear

Tony winner Glenda Jackson stars in ‘King Lear’ (Photo: Brigitte Lacombe)

Tony winner Glenda Jackson stars in ‘King Lear’ (Photo: Brigitte Lacombe)

The New York Times
“It should surprise no one that Ms. Jackson is delivering a powerful and deeply perceptive performance as the most royally demented of Shakespeare’s monarchs.” 

Broadway News
“Jackson’s Lear is, naturally, the production’s dominant, galvanizing force: It’s a performance as fiery and ferocious as it is authoritative…Jackson may be virtually the smallest person onstage, physically, but her Lear is a thoroughly commanding presence, whose hot bursts of temper flare out at the characters – and the audience – like blasts from a furnace, practically singeing the eyebrows when Lear is at his most snarlingly outraged.” 

“With the arrival of her mighty Lear, Glenda Jackson has, in the span of a year, provided Broadway with twin portraits of once towering figures humbled by age – last year a matriarch in Three Tall Women, now theater’s ultimate patriarch in King Lear, opening tonight at the Cort Theatre. I’ve no doubt she could come back next spring as young Harry Potter if she sets her mind to it.” 

Entertainment Weekly
“There are any number of quotes from King Lear that one might employ to kick off a discussion of how fully Glenda Jackson embodies William Shakespeare’s disintegrating ruler…Machismo just begins to graze it. The tragedy of the mad king is a study of masculine power battling its own decline and Jackson, with self-ruinous male ego animating her wiry frame, feasts on the notoriously challenging role.”

New York Stage Review
“Speaking her lines in a rich, rusty baritone that projects both masculine authority and the damage wrought by time – not to mention scheming offspring – Jackson delivers a devastating portrait of the king’s struggle to restore clarity and retain dignity as madness encroaches. She gets expert support from two other actresses cast in traditionally male roles: Jayne Houdyshell, bringing her sharp wit and wrenching poignance to the faithful Earl of Gloucester’s own struggle with a thankless child, and Ruth Wilson, who does supple double duty (as some scholars believe it was intended) as a palpably clear-eyed, pure-hearted Cordelia, Lear’s one honest daughter, and his Fool, whom Wilson endows with a cockney accent and a delightful physical buoyance.”
“This is a King Lear that wholly captures the complexities and contradictions of its title character, a still-roaring lion who refuses to accept that winter has dawned. That this King is a she adds another delicious layer. Gold’s production, which also features a woman (Jayne Houdyshell) playing Lear’s friend Gloucester and a partially deaf actor (Russell Harvard) playing the Duke of Cornwall, is at once a clever reflection of a culturally diverse modern world and a renunciation of the way ossified power structures are sustained.” 

NY Daily News
“Jackson is a sight to behold, and to hear, in flawless rendition of the great text, which roars from her lower register like the play’s famous thunder.”

NY 1
“Incredible as it sounds, 82-year-old Glenda Jackson is at the top of her game in this three-and-a-half hour play. While ordinary mortals might find the role exhausting, Jackson seems to draw strength as the scenes intensify. Male or female, she may be the best Lear you’re ever likely to see.” 

For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in April 2019


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