The Rose Theatre seems a perfect venue for Northern Broadsides' visiting production of King Lear, one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, writes Sam McFaul.  

With its simple set and lighting, the opening scene is powerful, as King Lear’s three daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia explain to the King why they deserve a portion of his land.

When only Cordelia speaks plainly to her father, Barrie Rutter’s Lear is quickly driven to anger, shouting at his most trusted courtier: “Peace Kent. Do not come between a dragon and his wrath!”

The scene is set, and true to his words Rutter convincingly shows Lear’s descent into madness and anger, yet also frailty as his wrath inevitably gives way.

In scenes that follow we see the introduction of Lear’s Fool, a character that Shakespeare deliberately wrote to be unfunny.

It shows, as Oswald, servant of Lady Goneril, elicits the most laughs from the audience, although Jos Vantyler plays him rather more flamboyantly than the creep Shakespeare perhaps intended.

As the interval approaches, a peal of thunder rolls with the sounds of cascading rain.

In the second half, the pace slowed somewhat, but it was not without its drama, including the blinding of the Earl of Gloucester, which appropriately, was lit so brightly it blinded the audience.

Later, an exhilarating fight scene was creatively enacted in slow motion to great effect.

As Lear’s madness spiralled, the play drew to its final crescendo and famous, final scene.

There was no standing ovation from the audience, but loud applause and cheers indicated Jonathan Miller’s production of King Lear went down a storm.

King Lear at the Rose Theatre runs until Saturday, May 23.

For tickets and details, visit