Double take for King Lear

A radical reworking of Shakespeare’s King Lear and Cordelia, a new play from the perspective of Lear’s youngest daughter are being staged at Derby Theatre by the city’s 1623 theatre company.

In this new version, Lear has dementia. His children never visit him; he forbids it, ever since they betrayed him and he disowned them many years ago.

So what happens when Cordelia – his youngest daughter, whose betrayal was the greatest – knocks on his door? Why has she come back? What’s her story? And is there any chance of reconciliation?

The production, which has been created through participatory research into King Lear in the context of dementia, combines digital projection-mapping, Shakespeare’s prose and new writing to open up the emotional landscapes of a man with dementia and the woman who tries to reconnect with him.

Ben Spiller, 1623’s artistic director, said: “We can’t wait to share two incredibly emotional and political plays based on Shakespeare, recent participatory research in care homes and the world in which we all live.

“Lear/Cordelia has been created by, with and for people who are passionate about seeing Shakespeare differently, excited about new writing and driven to explore the emotional impact of dementia on family life.”

You can see the dramatic double-bill in the Studio Theatre on November 18 and 19 at 8pm and on the 19th at 2pm. For tickets go to

The previous week Derby Shakespeare Theatre Company is taking yet another approach to The Bard’s greatest tragedy by setting it in a 1960s asylum.

A bereaved mother, tormented by the loss of a daughter, anchors her grief in the story of ‘Lear’.

As the story plays out priests transform into Dukes, patients become daughters. Can transposing the stages of grief to the narrative of Lear bring her peace? Through playing out her loss can she achieve acceptance?

Loss is at the very heart of this thought-provoking play: loss of loved ones, loss of status, and the loss of one’s sanity.

“Hopefully it will make people think,” said director Chris Scott.

At this year’s Eagle Awards, Derby Shakespeare Theatre Company won the Derby Telegraph Award for Best Production of a Play for The Madness of George III by Alan Bennett and, for the same production, Gordon Gell received the Timothy Dalton Award for Best Performance.

King Lear is at the Guildhall Theatre from November 8-12 at 7.30pm. For tickets go to