Corin Redgrave followed in his father’s footsteps by playing King Lear at Stratford. Michael Redgrave was Lear in George Devine’s 1953 production at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre (left), in a season when he also played Antony in Antony and Cleopatra and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.
Part of a famous acting dynasty including sisters Vanessa and Lynn, Corin was reluctant to play Lear while his father was still alive. He was 65 years old when he finally played the part, 20 years older than his father had been when he played Lear in 1953.
Re-joining the company after stints in 1972 and 1996, Corin combined his acting career with political and human rights campaigning. He was particularly drawn to what he saw as the contemporary relevance of the play “because it so vividly portrays a country divided by an almost impossible fault-line between those who have enough and those who don’t”, King Lear, RSC Online Playguide, 2004.
Some reviewers noted that Redgrave’s Lear was far from aged but instead was energetic and prone to tantrums and mood swings. Significantly, Lear’s line at the end of Act 4 where he tells Cordelia that he is “Fourscore and upward” was cut.
This was a Lear who parodied senility in the startling opening scene where he appeared as a doddery figure tapping a stick as he walked until he reached his family, when he straightened up and laughed heartily at his own joke. He also seemed to take childish pleasure in dividing up his kingdom until Cordelia spoiled the game.
When Corin Redgrave died in 2010, director Bill Alexander described his performance as King Lear as “selfless, unshowy and truthful, with a complete absence of rhetorical and theatrical tricks.” Guardian, 7 April 2010.
Discover how other King Lears have tackled one of Shakespeare's hardest roles (Telegraph) and see a gallery of King Lear, past and present (Guardian)