King Lear ★★★½

I always find myself revering rather than fully enjoying Laurence Olivier's Shakespearean works, and this applies more so than ever with the production that was to become his farewell to The Bard, namely Granada's 1983 film of King Lear, because of the poignancy attached to it.

Olivier's Lear is a vulnerable old man, with the knight exploiting his own genuine frailty for the role. This works achingly well for the scenes in which Lear struggles to assert his authority sans crown and faculties, but is less successful in the film's opening scenes when the character still greatly enjoys both of those things. The scene in which he wields a sword all too cumbersome in his fragile arthritic grip to split his lands is poignant and bittersweet.

Director Michael Elliot, who had previously directed Ronald Harwood's The Dresser for the stage which itself focuses a great deal on Lear, leaves no expense spared when it comes to the sense of occasion within the supporting cast around Olivier, casting such greats as Dorothy Tutin, Diana Rigg, Leo McKern, John Hurt and Colin Blakely alongside more up and coming talents such as Brian Cox, Robert Lindsay and David Threlfall. It is these latter two that I found particular interest; as Edmund and Edgar respectively, the pair navigated difficult roles with great conviction and brought something fresh, bold and new to each. Of the more established talents, Rigg is suitably sexily evil as Regan whilst Hurt's rather effeminate Fool serves as a suitable mirror image to Anna Calder Marshall's Cordelia if we are to presume the part was played by same performer back in Shakespeare's day.

A production that is faithful to the text made here in the north which, given the work he did there during this period, we may claim as Olivier's final creative home.

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