Slightly reluctant to venture out on a cold, wet snowy Monday evening for three hours of Shakespearean tragedy, from the moment Cordelia walked out onto the Playhouse stage I was absolutely spellbound.

I stayed that way until the bitter end, and I mean bitter because there is always a stunned silence when the play finishes and the audience has to congratulate rather than let the horror of what we have just witnessed wash over us.

Neither did I notice the passing of time, so gripping was every moment, so beautifully crafted and acted, all holding our breath as King Lear’s demise came slowly and ever more predictably into sight.

Not that it was ever going to be anything but brilliant, starring Michael Pennington as Lear, as he did so brilliantly in its New York debut, he having spent the past two years bringing it back over the pond for us to enjoy.

Now I can see why he bothered. Because the acting was exemplary, the Elizabethan text utterly relevant in today’s world - where jealousy, political intrigue, greed, lust, betrayal, politics, family rifts, uncertainty, bravery, loyalty and love all raise their heads.

The contemporary, if bare, set and costumes meant the play was more apt, the cast proving absolutely how and why Shakespeare has such a relevant role in today’s literary line-up, despite its 400 year time-line.

And Michael Pennington’s version demonstrated this absolutely (we’ve all endured the bad versions), because despite knowing the story inside out we were all absolutely transfixed. Not a stir from the audience, not a cough or splutter, not a shifting in a seat or the untwisting of sweet wrappers, just transfixed silence, punctuated with the odd gasp, or jump.

I had to press my fingers into my ears and hide my face with my programme for the eye gouging scene, bit otherwise I wouldn’t have missed a second of it.

A stunning cast, Pennington aside, who was quite simply extraordinary, from the utterly vulnerable wheelchair bound washed up king we see at the end, through the fire of his anger, the despair at his betrayal, punctuated by his looming dementia. The fool played by Joshua Elliot, Edgar and Poor Tom by Gavin Fowler and a suitably Machiavellian Edmund, played by Scott Karim, newcomer Caleb Frederick, who played minor roles such as France and the doctor, making a good impression.

Overall then a stunning production , and quite possibly the best Shakespeare I have ever seen.

I implore you to go this King Lear and see whether you like Shakespeare or not.