Edward Bond recasts the story of King Lear into a fundamentally political epic, which reveals the violence endemic in all unjust societies. He exposes corrupted innocence as the core of social morality, and this false morality as a source of the aggressive tension which must ultimately destroy that society.
The despotic Lear is building a vast wall to keep his enemies out of his kingdom, but the betrayal of his two daughters sends the country into civil war. Lear is deposed and tried, while the punishment of those who sheltered him begins a revolutionary uprising against the sisters. The new regime proves a cruel and hypocritical one, and orders that work on Lear’s wall be resumed. Though Lear has now been blinded, he begins to see the suffering of the people and becomes a focus for opposition.
Bond takes names and structures from Shakespeare’s play, but twists them into a brutal new shape that also takes influences from Chekov’s Three Sisters. The play premiered in 1971 at the Royal Court Theatre in London to many shocked reviews.