by Kathryn Hunter, Paul Hunter, Edward Petherbridge.

Young Vic (The Maria) 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ To 4 May 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.45pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 April.

Genius and madness near allied to comic effect.
When someone like Paul Hunter (which isn’t to admit there is anyone like Paul Hunter) tells you everything you hear will be true, you should immediately be wary. You are, after all, being Told By An Idiot (the theatre company run by Hunter with Hayley Carmichael, and here working with the Young Vic and Plymouth Theatre Royal).

Yet Edward Petherbridge is an actor aged 76, did create the role of Guildenstern in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, played Newman Noggs in David Edgar’s adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby (a memorable knuckle-cracking performance) and if his late-life invite to play Lear in New Zealand coincided with Ian McKellen’s world tour of the play for the Royal Shakespeare Company, that wasn’t the first time they’d come together, having jointly run a company within Peter Hall’s National Theatre in the mid-eighties, and the decade before founding The Actors Company, aiming to give actors the kind of voice running the show that they have performing it.

Lear provides more than this piece’s title; the tragedy runs through the comedy. There’s the invite to play, early rehearsals with an optimistic director and inexperienced prompter, then the strokes which finish the project in a hotel bedroom after two days’ rehearsal. While Edward still hankers after Lear, this is doing him for the present. If it shoots around like thoughts in a mind disturbed, it also coheres and reveals the artist – actor and painter- in Petherbridge.

There’s no knowing whether age or after-effect contribute to the odd pause, effortful move or restrained voice, because all these are incorporated within a smooth, aristocratic manner that easily issues disdain to more than Michael Vale’s design. With its sloping surface and trap-door entry, this might be thought a senior actor’s Health & Safety nightmare, though it’s actually Hunter who slides apparently helpless in a chair.

And the Petherbridge power comes when needed, beside being evident at the end. He has always been an actor to create maximum impact with minimal external means (contrasting McKellen? Discuss). Overall, here’s a joy with the sense of depth great actors bring to comedy.

Cast: Paul Hunter. Edward Petherbridge.

Director: Kathryn Hunter.
Designer: Michael Vale.
Lighting: Alex Wardle for charcoal.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.
Assistant director: Mia Theil Have.

2013-04-08 11:53:42

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