Is this a play about an actor called Edward Petherbridge who thinks he’s King Lear, or about a king called Lear who thinks he’s an actor, played by Edward Petherbridge? Come to that, is it a play, a show or stand-up? If that sounds horribly postmodern then fear not. My Perfect Mind manages to be both brilliantly inventive and old-fashioned hilarious at the same time.
Paul Hunter provides the perfect foil to Edward’s droll recounting. He is, by turns, a German psychiatrist, New Zealand theatre director, Lear’s fool, Lawrence Olivier, a cab driver, hack actor and both of Edward’s parents. Oh, and his brother. All these characters circle round Petherbridge, enabling him to tell his life-story – after a fashion. Along the way the cast of two manage to prick the pretensions of everything from conceptual art to actorly gestures, and from Larry Olivier to Petherbridge himself.
Amidst the mayhem Petherbridge soldiers on. His advanced age (he mentions that he is 78 several times) gives him a rueful view of life and a wit as dry as dust. The central episode is a stroke suffered by Petheridge in 2007 while preparing to play King Lear in New Zealand – a role he had always coveted. His illness thwarted that ambition but out of it has come this joyful piece of invention, co-written by Petherbridge and the show’s director Kathryn Turner.
What makes this piece unique is the fact of Petherbridge’s life. Are we are seeing a consummate actor playing himself or being himself? Decide for yourself but above all do not miss this extraordinary performance. The final bows had the audience on their feet. Run to the SJT now and grab your ticket. This production by the company Told By An Idiot is their first visit to Scarborough, let’s hope they come back soon.
Stephen Joseph Theatre
7:45 each evening
Runs until Saturday