KING LEAR Reviews Roundup: “Triumphant”, “Insightful”, “Intensely moving” – and a “devilish” Damien Molony

© Manuel Harlan

The Chichester Minerva Theatre opened its doors for King Lear press night on Friday 29 September, and was met with critical acclaim.

The theatre’s contemporary re-telling of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, directed by Jonathan Munby, has received 4 or 5 star reviews across the board, with mainstream press describing the play as “triumphant”, “insightful”, “finely acted”(The Times), “Smart, lucid” (The Guardian), “clear-sighted, “visceral” (Evening Standard), “superb”, “intimate” (WhatsOnStage) and “intensely moving” (The Stage).

The intimate space of the Minerva and designer Paul Willis’s set with circular stage design was positively received, with reviewers appreciating the more compelling, nuanced, close-up performances it allowed. Particular mention was given to the ‘storm scene’ in the reviews, with rain pouring down on the actors, and the audience in the front row!

As leading man, Sir Ian McKellen received high praise for his “intelligent”, “profound” and “detailed” portrayal of the King, and the entire ensemble cast were commended for their performances.

Damien Molony as Edmund in King Lear. © Manuel Harlan

Damien also received praise for his portrayal of Edmund as a “wily, devious and resentful” (British Theatre Guide) “smooth-talking Irish charmer” (WhatsSonStage), “downright casual in his serial wickednesses, almost sociopathic.” (Financial Times)

The Times applauded Damien and Jonathan Bailey, saying the pair “excel” as the two warring brothers Edmund and Edgar. The British Theatre Guide complemented the “extremely well executed” “frighteningly credible fierce” fight scene between the two, choreographed by fight director Kate Waters.

Jonathan Bailey and Damien Molony as Edgar and Edmund in King Lear. © Manuel Harlan

The DMF DaMo-centric King Lear press reviews round-up!

★★★★The Financial Times – Ian Shuttleworth | 2 October 2017
“As the treacherous Edmund, Damien Molony is fluent and downright casual in his serial wickednesses, almost sociopathic.”

★★★★★ WhatsOnStage – Maxwell Cooter | 2 October 2017
“There’s an excellent supporting cast: Damien Molony’s smooth-talking Irish charmer of an Edmund – it’s easy to see why so many fall for his deceptions…”

★★★★ Broadway World – Rona Kelly | 2 October 2017
“The world of Munby’s King Lear feels big, its rotundity encompassing and drawing in audiences. From the King to the “poor naked wretches”, we see their stories and weather the storms with them. The strength of this production comes from its impressive ensemble, led by an incredible but not infallible McKellen” “Damien Molony’s bastard Edmund takes after his father. His actions planned meticulously, this Edmund is an individual with a desire only for power. His relationship to the sisters is an important feature in other productions; here, he uses them as much as they use him.”

★★★★★ Evening Standard – Henry Hitchings | 2 October 2017
“Jonathan Bailey’s Edgar is a touching study of transformation — from naive innocence into morally serious worldliness — and Damien Molony captures the self-seeking resentment of his half-brother Edmund.”

★★★★ The Metro – John Nathan | 2 October 2017
“thriller-paced and intimate production” “The thinking is clear: an unhinged leadership has created a political climate in which the scheming Edmund (Being Human’s Damien Molony) and the barbarity of Lear’s pitiless daughters (Dervla Kirwan and Kirsty Bushell) can thrive.”

★★★★ The Guardian – Michael Billington | 1 October 2017
“Jonathan Munby’s smart, lucid production features plenty of pomp and circumstance, and a superbly detailed performance by McKellen”

British Theatre Guide – Sheila Conner | 1 October 2017
Of the Earl of Gloucester’s two sons—another fight for inheritance here—Damien Molony really gets into the spirit of bastard son Edmund, wily, devious and resentful, while legitimate Edgar (Jonathan Bailey) is innocently far too trusting. Fight director Kate Waters, as well as the battle scenes, has choreographed a frighteningly credible fierce fight between the two boys, extremely well executed and there must be a bruise or two to show for it.

★★★★ The Times – Anne Treneman | 30 September 2017
“Damien Molony and Jonathan Bailey excel…”

★★★★★ The Stage – Mark Shenton | 30 September 2017
“This King Lear is an intensely moving experience..” “There’s strong work, too, from Jonathan Bailey as a notably lithe Edgar, Damien Molony as Edmund, and the superb Michael Matus as a blustering Oswald”


So that’s the press, but what did the audience think? Here are our favourite reactions in Twitter land so far! (We’ll add more as they come!)


Bravo to Damien, cast and company on the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response to King Lear, which runs at Chichester Festival Theatre until 28 October.

We fervently hope for a West End transfer and a recording or broadcast for the successful production!


Have you been lucky enough to see Damien in King Lear? We’d love to hear from you! Share your reactions and vote in the poll here!


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