Having revealed he would play the role during the Whatsonstage.com Outing to Educating Rita, which finished its transfer run at the Trafalgar Studios on 30 October 2010, the BAFTA-winning actor has also said that performing Lear was a life-long ambition.
Pigott-Smith was recently seen in the West End as Ken Lay in Enron, a role which he played both at the Royal Court and the Noel Coward Theatres, and for which he received an Olivier Award nomination.
Having graduated Bristol Old Vic drama school, Pigott-Smith's first West End role was playing Laertes opposite Ian McKellen’s Hamlet. He joined the RSC for three years, during which time he toured to Broadway with a production of Sherlock Holmes in which he played Dr. Watson. His more recent stage credits have included The Iceman Cometh opposite Kevin Spacey and Peter Hall’s Pygmalion.
Talking about playing Lear, Pigott-Smith said: "I was 19 when somebody said to me, after a misguided performance in the Bristol University studio – ‘You should play Lear one day.’ So, I suppose, from that moment, it sits there waiting for you. And you hope that before you are too long in the tooth someone will ask you to go with them up the mountain. I worked very happily with Ian Brown some years ago, and I am gratified and terrified that he has asked me to come to the West Yorkshire Playhouse to tackle this astounding play."
Artistic director of West Yorkshire Playhouse Ian Brown brings what he calls "arguably Shakespeare's greatest play" the Playhouse’s Quarry stage following his production of As You Like It earlier this year. Amongst his other Shakespeare productions are the 2002 WYP production of Hamlet starring Christopher Eccleston. Brown’s other recent directing credits the TMA Award-winning Hay Fever with Maggie Steed.
Ahead of Tim Pigott-Smith, another high-profile Lear - Derek Jacobi's for director Michael Grandage - opens next month at the Donmar Warehouse (7 December 2010, previews from 3 December) before being broadcast to cinemas around the world via the National Theatre's NT Live streaming project on 3 February 2011. The production, which finishes its run at the Donmar on 5 February 2011, will then commence an eight-week regional tour playing Llandudno, Belfast, Glasgow, Milton Keynes, Salford, Richmond, Bath and Cornwall.