One of my favourite films is SHINE in which Geoffrey Rush won a truck-load of awards, including the Academy Award for his portrayal of pianist David Helfgott in 1997. He’s one of the few people to have collected the ‘Triple Crown of Acting’ – an Oscar, Emmy and a Tony – covering the big screen, small screen and the stage’s highest accolades. But, Geoffrey was in no rush (sorry) to take to the big screen. A ‘late bloomer’ who was 44 before embarking on his movie career. He’s has made up for it since. “I’m a stage actor, I was rolling along in theatre and having a good time. Movies was not where I was heading”. Then his career turned a sudden corner with SHINE and, as he put it, “over indulged in cinema” and dropped out of theatre for a decade.
That all changed after a chance meeting with celebrated British director Stephen Daldry, who rekindled his theatrical roots. Having played the Fool twice in a 30 year journey with Shakespeare’s KING LEAR, Geoffrey finally takes on the title role in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production directed by long-time friend and collaborator Neil Armfield. It is “the greatest play in the English language, certainly Shakespeare’s greatest achievement,” Geoffrey said.
“Capturing characters whose estimation of themselves is completely out of step with reality is Rush’s metier. He does good self-delusion, particularly because he has within his Arsenal the vulnerability and anguish of someone when their delusions are punctured,” wrote Dee Jefferson in TimeOut.
I did this montage of Geoffrey expressing Lear’s pathos as the ‘wonderfully pathetic ex-King,” and mailed it to him in Australia. I noticed that there is my namesake, another ‘Mark Winter’ in the cast. Mark Leonard Winter plays Edgar, described in Dee’s four-star review as ” thrillingly on the verge… who appears to have gone mad in the process of going mad,” – a state I am familiar with, collecting signed sketches has its drawbacks. Maybe Geoffrey thought it was his fellow thespian, taking up his 4B pencil in a moment of admiration and gladly complied with the signing request, before realising that it was the ‘other’ Mark Winter. Returning it to the UK may have been a giveaway. Maybe not.
KING LEAR finishes tomorrow at the Roslyn Packer Theatre in Sydney.