My Perfect Mind, a co-production between Told By An Idiot, Young Vic and Drum Theatre Plymouth, is a highly entertaining and absorbing portrayal of one man’s journey from the back streets of Bradford through the jaws of immobility to today.
With not a hint of smugness or self-pity, suave, softly-spoken long-time luvvie Edward Petherbridge (RSC, the original Guildernstern in Rosencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead, BBC’s Lord Peter Whimsey and many many more) tells a compelling tale of family life, burgeoning career, devastating illness and recovery all wrapped up in the broiling, brooding madness of Shakespeare’s King Lear.
Just two days into rehearsals for the title role in Lear, Petherbridge suffered a major stroke which, although barely able to move, left him with the complete memory of Lear’s words. And that is the premise of this tight, hilarious and poignant 85 minutes.
Written by Petherbridge, director Kathryn Hunter (who has played King Lear herself at the Young Vic) and co-performer Paul Hunter (co-founder and co-artistic director of Told By An Idiot; director of RSC’s The Mouse and His Child), the snippets from the life of the consummate British actor and his famous – and not so famous - contacts are superb foils to the underplayed struggle to regain the use of his body.
Paul Hunter is everyone else: mother, drama teacher, Olivier, German scientist, Romanian cleaner, Irish taxi driver, precious prompt, doctor and much more, frantically switching parts with the flick of a scarf, face paint or by donning a wig or white coat.
Played on Michael Vale’s simple skewed stage where everything is slipping downhill and a trapdoor yawns menacingly, this is so enjoyable I’m going back next week – intrigued to see how much is actually ad-libbed and how much carefully scripted.