Photographs of John Gielgud as Lear, 1955


Sir John Gielgud (1904–2000) was a British actor and director who, as well as his success in more modern roles, was known for his mastery of Shakespearean verse and is widely regarded as the best Hamlet of his generation. Gielgud played Lear on the stage four times during his long career: in 1930–31, 1940, 1950 and 1955. He also recorded a radio production in 1994 at the age of 90.

Gielgud last played Lear on the stage in 1955 in a touring production directed by George Devine. In this production, Gielgud and Devine’s interpretation of Lear aimed boldly at psychological reality, emphasizing Lear’s senility. However this was overshadowed by the largely unpopular abstract and symbolic experimentalism of designer Isamu Noguchi.

These photos were taken at different points on the tour, most likely at the Palace Theatre, London and the Stratford Memorial Theatre. They also feature Helen Cherry as Goneril, Claire Bloom (group scene) and Mary Watson (death scene) as Cordelia, Moira Lister as Regan, David O’Brien as the Fool and Anthony Nicholls as Kent.

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Photographs of John Gielgud as Lear, 1955
1955, London, Stratford-upon-Avon
Photograph / Image
Angus McBean
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Photos by Angus McBean © RSC

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Royal Shakespeare Company

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