(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/10.)
We are used to director's Shakespeare. This production, which plays 32 performances in
Chichester before moving to Brooklyn, is unequivocally actor's Shakespeare. It is staged with great clarity by Angus Jackson as a timeless moral fable. But what impresses is the spellbinding power of that fine American actor, Frank Langella, best known in Britain as the disintegrating president inFrost/Nixon, who plays Lear and wins.
Langella has that mysterious quality known as "weight". It is not merely that he is tall, has a voice that could be heard in Bognor Regis and is more oak than ash: it is that he has an authority that compels our attention. This is palpable from the start when he needs help ascending the steps of Robert Innes Hopkins's set, which looks like a miniaturised version of Chichester's hexagonal main
stage with appropriately crazy paving. Langella even cups a hand to his ear to hear Goneril's fake protestations of affection. But, despite his slight stoop and white thatch, this is a Lear who looks born to command.