The Yiddish Queen Lear

Written by Julia Pascal

New York in the late 1930’s. A once-famous Yiddish actress gives her theatre business over to her three daughters.

A story of love, infidelity, betrayal and exile inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear this new play with music, examines the moment when Jewish East European and American cultures mix on the eve of the Holocaust.

Pascal shows the clash and connections between two worlds in a vibrant, funny and tragic play.

The Yiddish Queen Lear is a free reworking of Shakespeare and a homage to the lost world of Yiddish theatre. The language of the shtetl , given dramatic form in Eastern Europe and exported by emigrants to New York, gave voice to a rich and varied theatrical tradition until its culture was wiped out in the war.

Pascal takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the full range, from sparkling music-hall comedy and plaintive song to improvisation, while showing an endearing lack of reverence for her subject.

Performed At:

The Yiddish Queen Lear opened on 20 April 1999 at the Southwark Playhouse, London

It returned to the Bridewell Theatre in London in a recast version in September and October 2001

Production Images:


The cast included Amanda Boxer (recently seen in The Graduate and Saving Private Ryan). Polish actress and former dancer Ruth Posner returns as The Yiddish Queen Lear and Parisian actor, Jean-Pierre Thiercelin making his London debut as Joseph.


“this play is an effecting and eclectic treat”
Evening Standard

“a fascinating and enjoyable evening”
The Guardian

“This is a raw play. . . prepare to leave exhausted and angry”
TNT Magazine