My Perfect Mind
23rd October 2014
Having played to sell out London audiences with accolades all the way,
it was something of a coup for the Unity to present this Told
By An Idiot theatre production. On first glance though the subject
matter of My Perfect Mind did not look an easy prospect, but what a raucous
and moving night's entertainment it turned out to be.
There were only two people on stage, Edward Petherbridge playing himself
and Paul Hunter assuming the role of a huge range of characters which
impacted on the acclaimed actor's life and mind.
Having suffered a huge stroke when in line to perform King Lear, Petherbridge,
when recovering, found that he could only remember Shakespeare's ill-fated
part in it's entirety, as he struggled to come to terms with the real
You could see his rehabilitation was going to be a struggle against adversity
by the stage design; Michael Vale's minimalist skewed inclined plane,
with a trap door at the high end and some peripheral props off the lower
edge of it.
Kathryn Hunter directed and Gregory Clarke's sound design set the tone
with an opening outburst of 'Run Rabbit Run'. As the room darkened the
patient is with his mad professor of a neurosurgeon and from here on in
it becomes a laughter fest of slapstick cameo situations, interrupted
only by the patient's occasional regression into the Bard's tragic role.
Hunter often looking like he would not have been out of place alongside
Mr Tumble in children TV's CeeBeeBees, careered through his changes of
persona, male and female alike with only the slightest of costume adjustments,
hectoring, mentoring and invoking vivid recollections of performances
across the globe with acclaimed 'luvvies'; 'Ian', 'Glenda', 'David'.
There are also the lesser but by no means insignificant mortals like
his mother, his Romanian house cleaner, a promoter from Bridlington and
impossible props like cannon and ping pong balls flying across the set
alongside awkward efforts at crawling under it.
Then King Lear would come to the surface and his anguish and despair
over Cordelia and Goneril racked Petherbridge as he staggered round the
stage, finally expressing, via caricature backdrop sketches, the misery
of it all.
And so it went - a one act 75 minute onslaught of the senses. This remarkable
collaboration shed new light on the distorted prism of memory loss and
the overcoming of serious debility. Fantastical as the content was the
audience here loved it too.