Major UK tour of King Lear stops off at York

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Ambassador Theatre Group and Royal & Derngate, Northampton


Announce major UK tour


King Lear

by William Shakespeare

Starring Michael Pennington



“It will come: humanity must prey on itself, like monsters of the deep.”

Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) has announced that a major new Royal & Derngate, Northampton production of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, King Lear, will embark on a UK tour to nine regional venues from April to July.

After a three week run at Royal & Derngate from 1 – 23 April, with a press night on Tuesday 5 April, the venues for this tour include Oxford Playhouse (25–30 April),Theatre Royal Brighton (3-7 May), Richmond Theatre (9-14 May), Grand Opera House, York (23–28 May), Manchester Opera House (31 May–4 June), Theatre Royal Bath (6-11 June), The Hall for Cornwall Truro (13–18 June), Cambridge Arts Theatre (20–Sat 25 June) and Malvern Theatre (27 June–2 July).

The renowned Shakespearian actor and two time Olivier award nominee Michael Pennington will reprise the role of King Lear after his highly acclaimed performance at the Shakespeare Center New York in 2014.

The Brooklyn Eagle said of his performance: “Michael Pennington will break your heart.  One of England’s foremost classical actors, this is a King Lear to grieve for in Shakespeare’s darkest play”.

Michael Pennington is joined by a distinguished cast of thirteen actors.

The production is directed by Philip Franks, whose extensive directing credits include a 5 year period as an Associate Director at Chichester Festival Theatre. Productions at Chichester include The Master Builder, The Deep Blue Sea, and Rattigan’s Nijinsky.  Other productions incude A Talent to Amuse (Royal Academy of Music), The Duchess of Malfi (West Yorkshire Playhouse) The Tempest (Liverpool Playhouse) and Private Lives (National Theatre).

In Shakespeare’s epic tragedy, an ageing tyrant’s decision to divide his kingdom tears his family apart, sparks catastrophic civil war and destroys all that he has.

Driven from his home, King Lear endures madness, blindness and great suffering as he battles a great storm. Yet with madness he finds reason, from blindness he gains new sight, after betrayal he discovers loyalty and through his suffering a better world emerges.

ATG Joint Chief Executive Sir Howard Panter commented: “The eyes of the world will be on Britain this year, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.  To mark this significant year, we are delighted to be bringing this major new production of King Lear to so many regional British playhouses and I am particularly proud that Michael Pennington, one of the finest Shakespearian actors of our time, will be playing Lear.”

Michael Pennington’s (Lear) stage career spans over 50 years.  He was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1964 to 1966, and again from 1974 – 1981.  In 1984 his role in Tolstoy’s Strider at the National Theatre won him an Olivier award nomination.

In 1986, Pennington and director Michael Bogdanov founded the English Shakespeare Company. As joint artistic director, he starred in the company’s inaugural productions of The Henrys and, in 1987, the seven-play history cycle of The Wars of the Roses, which toured worldwide and was televised. Pennington played such parts as Richard II, Prince Hal/Henry V and Jack Cade, for which he received an Olivier Award Nomination.

His West End work includes Peter Shaffer’s Gift of the Gorgon, Filumena (Eduardo di Filippo), in which he played opposite Judi Dench for the third time, Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw (National tour), Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III and Dr Dorn in Chekhov’s The Seagull, directed by Peter Stein for the Edinburgh Festival.  In 2003 he directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and The Hamlet Project for the National Theatre in Bucharest.

In 2006 he premiered his second one man show on Shakespeare, Sweet William, and in 2009 he worked with Peter Brook for the first time in Love is My Sin for a European Tour and in New York.

In 2012 he played his fifth consecutive Chichester season as Antony in Antony and Cleopatra opposite Kim Cattrall.

Recent notable performances have been as Edgar in Strindberg’s The Dance of Death, adapted by Howard Brenton at the Gate Theatre, John of Gaunt in Richard II (RSC), and as Anthony Blunt in Alan Bennett’s Single Spies at the Rose Theatre Kingston.

He played Michael Foot in The Iron Lady with Meryl Streep; and among his notable TV appearances have been in the title role of Oedipus the King and in the television movie The Return of Sherlock Holmes.


Cast also includes Beth Cooke (Cordelia). Beth trained at the Drama Centre in London. Her extensive stage experience includes the role of Cordelia in King Lear at The Abbey Theatre, Dublin.  She played Hero in The Old Vic Production of Much Ado About Nothing directed by Mark Rylance, and played Lois Fisher in The Children’s Hour directed by Sarah Frankcom for Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester and Irina in Three Sisters also directed by Sarah Frankcom for Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester.

Pip Donaghy (Gloucester) trained at the London Drama CentreHis theatrical career includes extensive work at Sheffield, Nottingham, Watford and Cambridge and two years at the Liverpool Everyman as well as seasons with 7:84 and Joint Stock.

Other cast members include Joshua Elliott (Fool), Gavin Fowler (Edgar), Scott Karim (Edmund) and Daniel O’Keefe (Oswald).


NB: The production is suitable for ages 14+

Tickets go on sale on Wednesday 20 January at 10am


Tickets from £15.25, available from box office on 0844 871 3024 or book online at  



Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Fri 1 – Sat 23 April

01604 624811

National Press Night: Tuesday 5 April 7pm

Oxford Playhouse

Mon 25 – Sat 30 April

01865 305305

Theatre Royal Brighton

Tue 3 – Sat 7 May

0844 871 7650

Richmond Theatre

Mon 9 – Sat 14 May

0844 871 7651

Grand Opera House York

Mon 23 – Sat 28 May

0844 871 3024

Manchester Opera House

Tue 31 May – Sat 4 June

0844 871 3018

Theatre Royal Bath

01225 448844

Mon 6 – Sat 11 June

The Hall for Cornwall Truro

Mon 13 – Sat 18 June

01872 262466

Cambridge Arts Theatre

Mon 20 – Sat 25 June

01223 503333

Malvern Theatre

Mon 27 Jun – Sat 2 July

01684 892277