Arguably the greatest play in our language, The Old Vic staged a rehearsed reading of King Lear, last Sunday.Directed by Jonathan Miller,an all star cast took to the stage for a charity gala in support of Motor Neurone Disease .
Joss Ackland, now in his eighties, with white flowing hair and beard, epitomised a quintessential ageing Lear.
This formidable cast, including Tony Britton, Michael York, Felicity Dean,John Nettles, Tony Robinson, Shaun Dooley, Barrie Rutter , Honeysuckle Weeks, Greta Scacchi and Tam Williams  filled the Old Vic Theatre. Yet despite the scale and grandeur of the event, the death of Cordelia stilled this nine hundred plus audience to utter silence.A testament to the quality and superb acting of this distinguished company.
Joss Ackland was a revelation as Lear. His sonorous voice scaled the full range of emotions. His childish outbursts gave the impression of the cries of a giant oak, felled by age and bad judgement.
Equally as impressive was Felicity Dean ,who played Lear’s eldest daughter Goneril as a  predatory siren, making her lust for the duplicitous Edmund ( the wonderful Shaun Dooley ) and her disdain for her gentle husband,played with  faultless elegance by Michael York,seem suddenly believable.                                                                                           Among the younger cast I particularly enjoyed the lightness of touch Jos Vantyler bought to a humorous  Oswald,the scheming and self serving ‘go-between’ between the sisters.
Finally , I long to see this realised into a fully fledged production, not only to see Tony Robinson recreate his role as the fool, in which he was excellent, and Barrie Rutter bringing  his moral integrity to the part of Kent, but to see again perhaps the greatest Lear of his generation,the incandescent Joss Ackland.

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