Adrian Noble production 1993

Photo shows Lear (Robert Stephens) and the Fool (Ian Hughes) in the storm. Photo: Malcolm Davies Collection © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

The RSC's 1993 production of King Lear was directed by Adrian Noble and featured Robert Stephens as Lear. In the same year, Stephens also played Falstaff in the RSC's production of Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, for which he was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award. Stephens was knighted in 1995 and died the same year, aged 64.

Bright, vibrant colours and sweeping Regency coats gave Noble's production energy and panache. A giant map of Lear's kingdom was papered onto the stage floor. Lear, delighted with his ingenuity, pointed this out with complacency, to the assembled company. As the kingdom fell apart, so the paper representation ripped and fragmented.

Similar bold stylisation marked the blinding of Gloucester, who staggered off-stage as the vast globe suspended above him cracked open to release a torrent of dry sand. This planetary spilling was matched by Cornwall's fatal and very bloody castration.

Critics praised Robert Stephens's performance which balanced the spectacular effects by stressing the vulnerability and poignant humanity of Lear.

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Photo shows Lear (Robert Stephens) and the Fool (Ian Hughes) in the storm.
Photo: Malcolm Davies Collection © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

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