Four time Olivier Award nominee Michael Pennington has been named to take the title role in Shakespeare’s King Lear at the Opera House Manchester, in a new production.  The run will mark the first time the renowned Shakespearean actor has play the iconic role in the UK.

In Shakespeare’s epic tragedy, an ageing tyrant’s decision to divide his kingdom tears his family apart, sparks catastrophic civil war and destroys all that he has.

Driven from his home, King Lear endures madness and great suffering as he battles a great storm. Yet with madness he finds reason, after betrayal he discovers loyalty and through his suffering a better world emerges.

This new production of King Lear is directed by Max Webster. Max is Associate Director at the Old Vic, where he recently directed The Lorax. Other recent credits include Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe and To Kill a Mocking Bird and Orlando at Manchester’s Royal Exchange.

Michael Pennington has played numerous roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company in a career spanning over 50 years, and was co-founder of the English Shakespeare Company. Recent notable performances have been as Edgar in Strindberg’s The Dance of Death, at the Gate Theatre, John of Gaunt in Richard II (RSC), and as Anthony Blunt in Alan Bennett’s Single Spies at the Rose Theatre Kingston. He played the role of Lear to great acclaim at the Shakespeare Center New York in 2014. This new production will see Michael play the role in the UK for the first time.

He is joined by a distinguished cast of thirteen actors. Newly announced in the role of Goneril is Catherine Bailey (Julius Caesar and The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare’s Globe, The 39 Steps, West End) and Sally Scott (King Charles III, West End) as Regan. They join Beth Cooke (King Lear, Abbey Theatre Dublin, Much Ado About Nothing, Old Vic) playing Cordelia and Pip Donaghy (seasons with 7:84 and Joint Stock) as Gloucester. Other cast members include Shane Attwooll (Cornwall), Reginald Edwards (Burgundy), Joshua Elliott (Fool), Gavin Fowler (Edgar), Caleb Frederick (France), Scott Karim (Edmund), Tom McGovern (Kent) and Daniel O’Keefe (Oswald).

Director Max Webster (The Lorax, Old Vic; Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare’s Globe; Twelfth Night, Regent’s Park) commented: “In the year that marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, it’s thrilling to be directing one of his greatest tragedies, and to be working with Michael who is one of the most respected Shakespearean actors of our time. I look forward to our talented cast bringing a gripping new interpretation to audiences across the UK.”

The rest of the creative team for Royal & Derngate Northampton’s major new production of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy includes designer Adrian Linford (Dear Lupin), Olivier Award-winning lighting designer Natasha Chivers (Oresteia and 1984) and composer Matthew Bugg (Hound of the Baskervilles). King Lear is to be presented on tour by Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG).

King Lear is performed at Manchester Opera House from Tuesday 31 May – Saturday 4 June.