An ageing ruler of a powerful country has called a meeting demanding to be flattered by his children and has fallen into a fit of rage when he doesn’t get what he wants, firing anyone who dares to contradict him. No, it’s not the Ten O’Clock news – it’s King Lear on BBC2.
Richard Eyre’s adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy stars Anthony Hopkins as the elderly monarch, with Emma Thompson and Emily Watson as his power-hungry daughters Goneril and Regan. Florence Pugh is his virtuous younger daughter Cordelia in an all-star cast including Outlander’s Tobias Menzies, Doctor Who’s Christopher Eccleston and Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter.
The two-hour adaptation takes place in a fictional modern Britain, a sort of hyper-militarised semi-medieval society where half the cast is wearing camouflage and the other half is either draped in furs or shivering in a refugee camp.
Hopkins’ King Lear rants and raves, first against Cordelia – who refuses to flatter him – and then against Goneril and Regan, who cast him out into the wilderness despite their professions of daughterly love. It’s an impressive and expressive performance, although Hopkins’ gravelly voice is sometimes VERY hard to understand as he runsallhiswordstogether in these mad rants. Subtitles wouldn’t go amiss.
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