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William Shakespeare's

King Lear – 2023

April 24th - October 29thFestival TheatreTicket Info
Generally Positive Reviews based on 10 Critics
  • bottom 14% of shows in the 2023 season
  • tied for most reviewed show of the season
10 Reviews

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The Globe and Mail - J. Kelly Nestruck

Gross is Unorthodox and Enlivening

“Sometimes, Gross’s joking/not joking take on the character reaches a tipping point where it can almost seem like he is performing/not performing – keeping one foot outside of his characterization, perhaps protectively.

But this is a place where that little bit of distance between Gross and his Lear opens up a space for the audience to feel instead of be shown feeling.

I keep being tempted to write that Gross is, for all the originality, a light-weight Lear. But then I keep hitting the backspace key because I’ve never actually been as moved by the imprudent patriarch’s self-inflicted journey to the depths of despair before.”

Read Full Review05/31/2023

Ontario Stage - Kelly Monaghan


“There is an art to staging a large-cast show on the Festival stage, one that has been mastered by old pros like artistic director Antoni Cimolino and frequent guest director Chris Abraham. Rampersad seemingly has no clue how the stage works and apparently received no helpful hints from more experienced hands.

All too frequently an important character would deliver an important speech with his or her back to the audience. I found it maddening.

Worst of all, Rampersad doesn’t seem to have done much to help her actors shape their performances. Excellent Stratford veterans seem to have been left to their own devices. Those with less experience seem to have been left to sink or swim and, alas, they sink.”

Read Full Review06/04/2023

The Toronto Star - Karen Fricker

Guts and Vision

“[Gross] and director Kimberley Rampersad have the guts and vision to let this Lear be genuinely unlikeable at the start: an aging leader so accustomed to power and influence that he all but throws away the command to his daughters to convince him which one of them loves him most….

Michael Blake, familiar to Stratford audiences for a galvanizing performance as Othello in 2019, is mesmerizing as the bastard Edmund, ..

André Sills offers one of his most focused performances in years as an initially lighthearted Edgar who descends into convincing madness and despair after his brother Edmund’s betrayal.”

Read Full Review05/31/2023

Stage Door - Christopher Hoile

Tough to Take Gross’s Lear Seriously

“One often reads that King Lear is considered Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, but you would never guess that was the case after such a superficial and often wrong-headed traversal of the text now playing at the Festival Theatre…

…the play has no directorial focus and the actors seem to have been left to fend for themselves…

One of Gross’s line readings near the very beginning dooms his performance to failure for nearly the whole play. Lear says that he is dividing the cares of his kingdom, “Conferring them on younger strengths, while we / Unburthen’d crawl toward death”. Gross stretches out the word “death” as if it were a bogeyman only foolish people would fear. From this point on, and after other such line readings, it is impossible for us to take seriously anything Gross’s Lear says.”

Read Full Review05/31/2023

Broadway World - Lauren Gienow

Strong Company

“The entire company is strong. Michael Blake’s performance as Edmund will be remembered for years to come…

As Edmund’s ‘legitimate’ brother Edgar, who disguises himself as ‘Poor Tom,’ André Sills is excellent. He brings humour, passion, and an element of unpredictability to his scenes with Blake, Gross, and Anthony Santiago – who plays the Earl of Gloucester.”

Read Full Review06/01/2023

Intermission Magazine - Aisling Murphy

If You Love Lear

“Much of the production hurtles forward at a breakneck pace, and for me, words got lost, particularly when actors were facing upstage, their lines garbling against the set. While the Festival Theatre can feel surprisingly intimate from the lower-level seats, I was surprised at the extent I struggled to make out text, as if watching from a great distance — I fear what might be lost further back.

Look, if you love Lear as a text, or Gross as an actor, this production will likely be a winner for you — even more so if you missed Soulpepper’s duo of Lear plays last year. Otherwise, there might be other Shakespeares (or the intensely wonderful Casey and Diana) to check out at the festival this year.”

Read Full Review06/04/2023

The Slotkin Letter - Lynn Slotkin

How is the Play Served?

“Paul Gross, at 64 is not old, not playing old, and not attempting apparently to play old. He’s playing a fit, robust, energetic and impish man in full command of all his faculties both physical and mental…

When he says he’s crawling towards death, he over accentuates the word deaaaaaaaaath, so that he’s making a joke of it. He’s not being ironic. He’s being sarcastic. I can only assume this is a decision between director and actor. My question is why? How is the play served here?

… it tries to re-image the play in a ‘new’ way, I don’t think the actual production serves the play.”

Read Full Review06/04/2023

Stratford Today - Geoff Dale

Gordon Patrick White's Fool is Perfect

“Though hard to believe in such a dramatic tragedy, there are even moments of humour in which Lear takes centre stage, most noticeably when trading barbs with his cheeky court Fool, played brilliantly by Gordon Patrick White…

Gordon Patrick White is absolute perfection as the Fool – loyal and honest even when conversing with his monarch, a luxury afforded to no one else in the kingdom including the royal family and closest of friends.

He is ironic, sarcastic, hilarious and can even ease into his touches of truth when kibitzing with Lear. White is top of the class as he makes the very best of what is clearly the juiciest role in so many of the Bard’s greatest works.”

Read Full Review05/31/2023

The Beacon Herald - Bruce Urquhart

Bold Character Choices

“While Lear is often portrayed as physically frail, Gross’s depiction of the aged king eschews that kind of debility and focuses instead on his moral frailty…

There are a lot of bold character choices made in this production and, anchored by Gross’s riveting performance, they are choices that pay off. Rampersad stays focused on the complicated relationships at the crux of the play, exploring the tension between generations and the jealousy between siblings.”

Read Full Review05/31/2023

Our Theatre Voice - Joe Szekeres

Laughter Diminishes the Emotional Impact

“Rampersad has found some humour and laughter in her vision which I hadn’t noticed before. That’s positive as humour in a tragedy allows the audience to breathe a bit before the next emotional wallop.

At times, that laughter can diminish the intended emotional impact. An example of this occurs during a poignant scene where Gloucester and Lear share a conversation in a hovel and the former requests to kiss the latter’s hand. However, Gross’s response of suggesting to wipe his hand first undermines the emotional weight of the moment.”

Read Full Review05/31/2023

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