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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: September 2019

Chapter 5 - New Ways of Looking at Lear: Changing Relationships between Theatre, Screen and Audience in Live Broadcasts of King Lear (2011–2016)

from Part II - Lear en Abyme: Metatheatre and the Screen


Since the National Theatre launched its NT Live scheme in 2009, three large-scale productions of King Lear have been broadcast live from theatre auditoriums to cinema screens around the world: NT Live’s 2011 collaboration with the Donmar Warehouse, directed by Michael Grandage, their 2014 production, directed by Sam Mendes, and, most recently, a production by the Royal Shakespeare Company, directed by Gregory Doran and broadcast in October 2016. Smaller companies have also begun experimenting with live streaming their theatre online, including the 1623 Theatre Company’s King Lear adaptation, Lear/Cordelia, which was live streamed in November 2016. This chapter examines this corpus of live broadcast Lears, drawing on close analysis of the filmed productions and on critical and public responses in order to think through the specific challenges of producing King Lear for live broadcast, as well as the particular opportunities that arise when the play is mediated in this way. Considering the ways in which live broadcast distribution methods create new layers of meaning, the chapter explores how the rhetoric of ‘accessibility’ becomes part of these productions, questioning how the cinema broadcasts create a kind of access that implies a hierarchy of ways of experiencing King Lear – a hierarchy that places live, unadapted, stage productions firmly at the top.