Peter Brook production 1962

King Lear (1962) Photo: Angus McBean Collection © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Scofield's famous performance

Peter Brook's production of King Lear featured Paul Scofield in the title role. Before taking on this role, Scofield had just won an Oscar for his performance in the Hollywood film A Man For All Seasons. His performance as Lear is still referenced today as one of the greatest ever performances of this challenging role, and in a 2004 poll, RSC actors voted this as the finest performance ever on the RSC stage:
Scofield's Lear voted the greatest Shakespeare performance
Daily Telegraph, 22 August 2004

Stage and screen

After a long run and a very successful  world tour, the production was made into a film in 1971, which Brook directed.

Peter Holland discusses the production and the film in his article:
King Lear: A shifting landscape
RSC show programme, 2006

Set design

'Peter Brook's set is as simple in conception as the production is complex: a pair of enormous white flats and a prevalence of rusty metal props. Some of these are representational such as a chair that settles into the stage like an iron tooth; but they are mostly abstract shapes, suggesting a sculptor's distillation of complex designs.
'The set is flooded with white light. Taken together lighting and set have the effect of placing the action in an emotional remove, and while this serves to heighten psychological clarity it also works against atmosphere.'
Irving Wardle, Plays and Players (journal), Issue 1, 1963

Explore the photo gallery »


Photo shows Edmund (James Booth) seducing Goneril (Irene Worth) in the RSC's 1962 production of King Lear.
Photo: Angus McBean Collection © Royal Shakespeare Company

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