Actor Don Warrington takes on King Lear and dementia

King Lear: The Film, starring Don Warrington in the leading role, is now on free release online from July 2016 for three months.

It can be watched the UK and internationally via the British Council Shakespeare Lives digital festival and on BBC’s iPlayer.


Warrington’s Lear explores the theme of dementia, showing the progression of the king’s condition, how this affects the course of the play, and as a result, the entire family. 

The electric sell-out theatrical production, by London’s Talawa Theatre Company and Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre, was filmed in front a live audience. 

Don Warrington spoke about King Lear’s dementia and how it influenced his performance:

'I really think that Shakespeare is writing about dementia; I suspect that a member of his family had it and he studied them closely before writing it down. For me, dementia becomes a very important aspect of the play. It shows itself in his rages which suddenly overcome him and he doesn’t quite know where he is. That was the route I took.'

The play’s director, Michael Buffong added:

'Myself and Don talked about the nature of Lear’s ailment and we decided it was dementia. They wouldn’t have had that word 400 years ago, but the symptoms seemed so clear to us.

'We read somewhere that Shakespeare’s father had dementia and he seems to write about it so knowingly that it must have been something close to him. Once we identified that, we could track the progress. There’s an incline of it right at the beginning, a feeling that the King is not quite himself and there’s progression just goes on and on until it’s conclusion.'