Belfast Telegraph

Belfast cinemas to broadcast King Lear live from Shakespeare’s Globe

By Tim Cornwell

A performance of King Lear at Shakespeare’s Globe in London will be broadcast live to three cinemas in Belfast this week.

Actor Kevin McNally, 61, will star in the title role to be shown at Dundonald Omniplex, Movie House Dublin Road, and the Odeon on September 21.

The CinemaLive transmission is the very first from the Globe Theatre, with its open air pit, 20 years after it opened in London.

The chance of rain pouring down on the audience and the front of the stage, will add a spectacularly live element to the broadcast - but Lear, where the half-mad King wanders the moors after giving up his kingdom to his viciously cruel daughters, is famous for its stormy scenes.

Kevin R McNally as Lear_credit Marc Brenner.jpg
Kevin R McNally as King Lear (Marc Brenner)

Directed by Nancy Meckler, of the Shared Experience company, the production plays on the theme of the homeless king with actors breaking into the set as if it was a squat.  

Lear and his dressed-down entourage process about the stage in what looks like an oversized shopping trolley.

But with seven cameras and lots of close-ups it’s an energetic, fast-moving production ideally suited to the live broadcast, McNally said. “’I’ve never done it,  it’s as fresh to me as to the audience.”

This cut of the play, to three hours, focuses firmly on the intense family drama, particularly Lear’s tragic relationship with his most beloved daughter, Cordelia, as a younger generation turn brutally upon their elders.  

It allows more laughter to creep in than you expect, but McNally successfully reduces you to tears.

Kevin R McNally as Lear_credit Marc Brenner .jpg
Kevin R McNally as King Lear (Marc Brenner)

Critics have praised the “naked emotional spontaneity in his fine performance”, and also his Captain Birdseye beard. One four-star review concluded he gave the great Sir Ian McKellen, a famed King Lear, a run for his money.

When McNally is stripped to a tee-shirt on stage, it turns out he maybe the first tattooed Lear in history - and yes, they are real, though not pirate markings, but acquired in Los Angeles, with “science ink” on one arm and “family ink” on the other. 

Ensemble_credit Marc Brenner.jpg
King Lear (Marc Brenner)

Like McNally,  Anjana Vasan, playing Cordelia, has had favourable write-ups. “Anjana is great because she’s really small, which helps me carry her,  We do have this cast that likes to eat cake, so I have to police Anjana, that she doesn’t eat cake,” he said.

Shakespeare's Globe's production of King Lear is broadcast live to over 300 cinemas around the UK and Ireland 21st September. For more information, visit

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