My Perfect Mind, Young Vic, London
Tuesday 09 April 2013
“King Lear is an oak and I'm more of an ash tree, or a silver birch – or privet,” declares Edward Petherbridge in his silvery, whimsical way. The seventy-six year old actor can smuggle a lot of wry dissidence and bathos through customs with that pit-a-pat mock-distracted, throwaway manner and there's many a fast and delicious aside in My Perfect Mind, a very funny show inspired by a very unfunny real-life setback.
In 2007, Petherbridge, his non-oak status notwithstanding, got to fulfil a long-cherished dream by flying out to Wellington, New Zealand, to begin rehearsals as Shakespeare's mad monarch. Two days into rehearsal, he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralysed and thus ineligible for the production, despite the remarkable fact that he could remember the lines.
Remarkable in a different way is the fact that his mother up in Bradford had a stroke just two days before she gave birth to the future theatrical luminary, veteran of Olivier's National (where he was the original Guildenstern in Stoppard's instant classic) and mainstay of the RSC (where he was an indelible Newman Noggs in the Nunn/Caird Nicholas Nickleby).
From the title and the circumstances, you may have thought that My Perfect Mind would be a solo piece in which Petherbridge, now recovered, got his own back on fate, big time, by playing all the roles in the play as Bottom longs to do in the Dream. In fact it's a gently hilarious, intermittently (and understatedly) haunting double-act piece which plays sometimes daft, sometimes pointed variations on the Lear/Fool dynamic and is superbly directed (on a set that has a modish, deliberately inconvenient tilt) by Kathryn Hunter who remarkably has performed both those roles.
Lovely Paul Hunter, from Told By An Idiot, plays a variety of roles from a mad German professor who thinks that Petherbridge is a fraud with Edward Petherbridge Syndrome, to a marigolds-wearing female Romanian Shakespeare Professor who has been reduced to charring for him, to (in an absolutely side-splitting interlude) Laurence Oliver combining the gait of Richard III with the make-up (big brown circle) and words and manner of Othello. The last of these perhaps provides the most fitting occasion for the running gag that aspects of the show are “borderline offensive”. And through the luvvie-guying laughter, there is the always the chance of some situation arising that will crystallises a slightly disconcerting connection with Shakespeare's tragedy and balance the exquisite lightness of the show with a sudden intimation of depth.
To 27 April; 020 7922 2922
Arts & Ents blogs
St Patrick’s Day 2014: The worst Irish accents in film history
Under The Skin, film review: Scarlett Johansson is full-blooded as femme fatale alien
Best films on Netflix: 32 movies that will put an end to your scrolling
Chalkie Davies' stunning rock photographs: The Clash, Springsteen, Bowie and more
Disney's Frozen is 'very evil' gay propaganda, says Christian pastor
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
Europeans have ‘got whiter’ due to natural selection in past 5,000 years, scientists say
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
The rise of Ukip: Study warns Labour that Eurosceptic party's electoral base now 'more working class than any of the main parties'
- 1 Is your name now 'banned' in Saudi Arabia?
- 2 Best films on Netflix: 32 movies that will put an end to your scrolling
- 3 Saving a crushed egg with tape and glue: Why you should care about the kakapo
- 4 Istanbul protesters take 'Ellen selfie' from the back of a police van
- 5 Lady Gaga has struggled with eating disorders in the past, so it's indefensible that she's glamourising bulimia in her SXSW set