Sir Ian McKellen completed an extraordinary journey last night, when he brought his King Lear, directed by his long-time friend Trevor Nunn, triumphantly into the West End after an initial run last spring at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and an international tour that’s caused ticket frenzies in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the US.

Tickets for the limited season to 12 January 2008 at the West End’s New London Theatre – where it runs in repertory with Nunn’s cross-cast production of Chekhov’s The Seagull, opened to the press the night before – sold out long ago and are now only available via ticket touts and ebay.

TO SCROLL THROUGH ALL OF THE KING LEAR 1st NIGHT PHOTOS,
JUST CLICK ON THE "NEXT >" LINKS BELOW THE FOLLOWING FRAME.

First announced more than two years ago, the McKellen-Nunn King Lear was scheduled as the ultimate production for the year-long Complete Works Festival at the RSC, where Nunn was previously artistic director. However, its April opening was derailed when actress Frances Barber, who plays Goneril (and Arkadina in the Chekhov), was injured in a cycling accident (See News, 10 Apr 2007). Though its press performance delay to 31 May displeased critics at the time, it did nothing to diminish audience enthusiasm and demand for tickets.

McKellen plays the title role in King Lear and shares the role of Sorin with William Gaunt in The Seagull. The company also features: Romola Garai (Cordelia/Nina), Sylvester McCoy, Monica Dolan, Jonathan Hyde and Ben Meyjes. Others in the cast are: Ben Addis, Adam Booth, Russell Byrne, Richard Goulding, Julian Harries, John Heffernan, Peter Hinton, Seymour Matthews, David Weston, Guy Williams, Philip Winchester, Zoe Boyle, Naomi Capron and Melanie Jessop. The productions are designed by Christopher Oram, with lighting by Neil Austin, sound by Fergus O’Hare and music by Steve Edis.

For 1st Night Photos, our Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller was on hand for the curtain call at the New London Theatre and the post-show party at Lupo along with the company and other first night guests including Ruby Wax, Andrew and Madeleine Lloyd Webber, Tim McInnerny, Paul Keating and the Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant.

- by Terri Paddock