Sam Mendes has assembled a stellar cast for his forthcoming production of King Lear at the National Theatre, with a selection of acclaimed NT regulars set to join the previously announced Simon Russell Beale in the title role.
Kate Fleetwood, Anna Maxwell Martin and Olivia Vinall will take on the roles of Lear’s three divided daughters, Adrian Scarborough will flex his comedy bones as the Fool, the King’s mocking court jester, while Stanley Townsend will appear as Lear’s committed ally Kent, when the Academy Award-winning director’s production begins its run at the lauded venue’s Olivier stage next January.
Fleetwood returns to Shakespeare following her high-profile turn as Lady Macbeth in Rupert Goold’s 2007 multi-award-winning Macbeth. The stage regular has since won plaudits for her Olivier Award nominated role in the National Theatre’s controversial hit London Road, and for her roles in Life Is A Dream at the Donmar Warehouse and Our New Girl at the Bush theatre.
Playing Fleetwood’s younger, but equally unlikeable, sister Regan, Maxwell Martin’s last Shakespearen outing came playing Isabella in the Almeida’s Measure For Measure.
Well known for her roles on screen, including Bleak House, Poppy Shakespeare and South Riding, the actress returns to the National following 2004’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, in which Maxwell Martin played 12-year-old Lyra to critical acclaim. Her other credits at the venue include The Coast Of Utopia, Honour and Three Sisters, while her many other theatre appearances include West End productions of Cabaret and The Female Of The Species.
Newcomer Vinall will swap her current role as another of Shakespeare’s famous females, Desdemona, following her run in Nicholas Hytner’s current hit Othello, to take on the part of Lear’s youngest and most loyal daughter, Cordelia, marking her second classical role at the famous theatrical institution since graduating in 2010.
The two male leads announced today also return to the South Bank venue following acclaimed appearances. Stage and screen star Scarborough won an Olivier Award for his role in After The Dance, with other credits at the venue including The Habit Of Art, Time And The Conways and Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, while Irish actor Townsend appeared in Remember This, Guys And Dolls, Phedre and Happy Now? at the theatre, but is arguably better known for his regular television appearances in hit series including The Shadow Line, Waking The Dead and Sherlock.
According to the Daily Mail, King Lear will begin rehearsals in November before hitting the Olivier stage for previews beginning in mid-January. The famous tale of a monarch who descends into madness is the only production to have been announced in the 2014 season so far, with exact dates still to be confirmed.