My Perfect Mind

Directed by Kathryn Hunter
Told By An Idiot
Unity Theatre (5th – 9th March 2013)

Reviewed by Jennifer Keegan

Told by An Idiot's My Perfect Mind explores the bravery and determination of the human mind overcoming tragedy. Critically acclaimed actor Edward Petherbridge was rehearsing the role of King Lear when he suffered a stroke which left him partially paralysed. Although he struggled to move his hand he found to his surprise that the entire role of Lear still existed word for word in his mind. This play explores his recovery, his upbringing and his resolute determination to recover against the backdrop of Shakespeare’s famous words. Directed by Olivier Award winner Kathryn Hunter, and with Paul Hunter playing all the characters Petherbridge interacts with, My Perfect Mind achieves the impossible and brings together the luvviness of theatre with the reality of a fragile body.

Bouncing between fact and fiction, the duo navigate their way through the story, and with interspersed scenes from Lear, we are taken on a journey back to Petherbridge's home town, to reminisce about his mother who also had a stroke just before he was born and her determination to continue with her life. Comically when asked if she made a full recovery, he replies that she always did the housework! The beauty of this production lies not in the big dramatic Lear scenes, but in the smaller, emotional scenes where we see flashbacks to Petherbridge as a child or his vulnerability as a patient receiving physiotherapy after his stroke. Hunter also shines in the smaller scenes, seeing him simply talking to Petherbridge is where the emotion and drama lies. Watching him dash about the stage playing the fool and making noise to form the storm in Lear seemed futile and undermined his clever work throughout the play. Hunter delivers some withering putdowns about other actors in his own peer group which were amusing for those who got the gags, and he fully committed to the physical nature of his role, but his peak for me was his timing; sheer comic brilliance. Petherbridge could only get away with his luvvy darling brilliance with Hunters idiot to play against. They really made a perfect team.

The staging was interesting, with a tilted stage, an open trap door and plenty of blank canvas the added sense of precaution and danger was always present, and whilst I am a Lear fan, some of the passages seemed simply thrown in for the sake of it and wouldn’t have been missed or taken anything away from the overall play if they had been taken out. Petherbridge and Hunter completely won over the audience with their heart rendering story. In the middle of the play Hunter as the physiotherapist asks Petherbridge to wiggle his fingers, something he cannot to do. At the very end of the play, Hunter asks Petherbridge to wiggle his fingers, and he gladly shows he can. The truth of his recovery is what makes this production so endearing. The rapturous applause was greatly deserved.

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Sorry Comments Closed

Comment left by richard adamson on 20th March, 2013 at 21:09
I think your spot on with your review; I went with some apprehension, as living on a tight budget it was a bit of an outlay for me. My friend recommended it and went for the second time of the run and my daughter, Marnie, who is studying A level english. We all laughed a lot. Perhaps of interest was Marnie got the Lear text references but not the jokes about EP's peers. I think there was so much stuff in there that you could keep going back and enjoy things in the play, as my friend did. Good to see art reviews in the nerve Mag.