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 The Theatreguide.London Review

My Perfect Mind
Young Vic Theatre Spring 2013; Autumn 2014

The primary attraction of this show is the opportunity to spend ninety minutes in the company of one of the most charming and personable of British stage actors. 

Edward Petherbridge was an RSC stalwart for decades, the original Guildenstern in Stoppard's R & G Are Dead and an unforgettable Newman Noggs in Nicholas Nickleby. In 2006, while preparing to play King Lear in New Zealand, he had a stroke that left temporary holes in his memory but, oddly, total recall of his lines as Lear. 

Inspired by that incident Petherbridge (now almost completely recovered and playing himself and Lear), co-star Paul Hunter (playing Everyone Else) and director Kathryn Hunter (who herself has played King Lear) have devised this entertainment, a stream-of-consciousness rumination on Petherbridge's life and career, the art and business of acting, and King Lear. 

And, lest that sound too heavy, I hasten to add that it is mainly very funny, with wry comments on acting, ancient Music Hall gags, theatrical in-jokes, and wicked anecdotes and impersonations of icons from Noel Coward to Laurence Olivier. 

The autobiographical thread takes the veteran actor from his improbable roots in a local acting school through the years at the RSC and National Theatre to an ill-fated 2010 West End revival of The Fantasticks (where he met Paul Hunter), with the major detour to New Zealand a few years earlier. 

The anecdotes and commentary on the jobbing actor's life are ironic and humorous while never disguising his love for what he does, and a running gag that suggests that he is either a mad actor who thinks he's King Lear or a mad King Lear who thinks he's Edward Petherbridge actually does have something to say about the craft and psychology of acting. 

Meanwhile, several excerpts from King Lear afford us the pleasure of hearing Petherbridge's Gielgud-like musical delivery, while also supporting his modest self-assessment that he's too much of a slender ash to play the oak-like role. 

Even if you're not a Petherbridge fan you can enjoy the insights into acting and the general silliness. And if you are a fan – and anyone who has ever seen him is – My Perfect Mind is a pure delight.

Gerald Berkowitz


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Review -  My Perfect Mind - Young Vic Theatre 2013 

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