The 79-year-old star put her acting career on hold in 1990 to take up a career in politics, but she is now set to star as a female King Lear at London's Old Vic Theatre.

Rehearsals of the Shakespeare play, directed by Deborah Warner, are set to begin in August (16) with opening night provisionally scheduled for October (16).

Deborah believes the double Academy Award winner decided to take the comeback role after seeing her friend Nuria Espert play Lear in Barcelona, Spain.

"Seeing her do it must have been the trigger," the theatre director tells British newspaper the Daily Mail. "I think she's playing Lear, full stop he, or she, who takes the words into their mouth of any Shakespearian character, becomes the character. Boom. Done."

The Women In Love star's return to acting comes after she retired as a Labour Member of Parliament (MP) in May last year (15), after 23 years in Britain's House of Commons.