"If you buy only one spoken-word recording this year, make it this. Forty years after first playing Lear at Stratford, Paul Scofield repeated the role just months short of his 80th birthday. He is breathtakingly, stingingly brilliant. The range and control of that wonderful voice remain awesome, and like an organ virtuoso he switches registration seamlessly, from blazing diapason rage down to dulciana pathos, exploiting the studio's opportunities for intimacy never offered by the stage. Taken right down, the small mad ensemble pieces with Edgar, the Fool and Kent yield so much more. The studio also spares an actor of Lear's actual four score years the near-impossibility of carrying in the dead Cordelia (Emilia Fox). David Burke gives a bravura performance as Kent, and Kenneth Branagh a nippy yet restrained counterpoint as the Fool. But this is Scofield's show."
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