WHEN Edward Petherbridge suffered a stroke after the second day of rehearsals for King Lear, he was too busy recovering to worry too much about missing out on the dream role.
But once again able to read and write, he regretted losing what was potentially his sole opportunity to play one of the most coveted parts on stage.
Instead, we have My Perfect Mind – the title taken from Lear’s closing scenes – a surreal and fragmented journey through events both fact and fiction billed as “a comic tale of a man not doing Lear”.
Yet, in fact, Petherbridge does manage to play the misguided king from start to finish, albeit in a very condensed version with unexpected characters such as a New Zealand brain surgeon and an Eastern European Shakespeare scholar- turned-char lady (all jocularly played by Told By An Idiot co- artistic director Paul Hunter) stepping in to take the supporting roles.
Flashbacks from Petherbridge’s life gain a surreal tinge as they jostle with random encounters with a lab- coated German psychoanalyst studying the supposed real life King Lear for signs of EPS (Edward Petherbridge Syndrome) and imagined conversations with the late Sir Laurence Olivier, which are the comic highlights of the piece.
It is pleasantly bonkers and its illogical format mirrors the confusion Petherbridge must have felt after his stroke, but the piece lacks a consistent energy and some parts feel just too bewildering.
Still, it’s an entertaining piece and a good opportunity to see the man who co-founded the Actors Studio with Sir Ian McKellen in a very unlikely performance.