Drawing: Edward Petherbridge in My Perfect Mind at The Young Vic Theatre

my perfect mind

The Guardian labelled the two man show My Perfect Mind, “an exquisite piece of tomfoolery”. Performed by Paul Hunter and Olivier Award winner Edward Petherbridge, it has just finished a four week run at London’s Young Vic as part of a UK tour. It is inspired by Edward’s experience of not playing Lear.

In 2007, Edward travelled to Wellington in New Zealand to fulfil his long cherished ambition to play Shakespeare’s King Lear. Two days into rehearsal he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralysed. Remarkably, he was still able to remember every world of the mad monarch.

It’s played on a disorientating tilted stage in a world that’s off kilter and difficult to physically negotiate. The title is from Lear’s most chilling line “I fear I am not in my perfect mind”. It is a very funny piece mixed with the fact that we are all heading, like Lear, towards our own private struggle sot maintain perfect mind.

It’s a show that invokes the ghosts of Petherbridge’s childhood, the ghosts of all those actors who have played Lear and the ghost of the performance that Edward never got to give.

Paul plays a variety of characters who have figured in Petherbridge’s life, including Lord Olivier, the actor’s mother (herself a stroke victim) and the Fool to his Lear. He signed my sketch going in, but I missed Edward. Waiting at the lower stage door, (the Young Vic has at least two) I missed him again after the performance. He and left via the upper stage door since the play is performed in the upper auditorium. Paul told me he was eating at an Italian restaurant over the road and assured me he wouldn’t mind the intrusion.

It’s not my usual practice, stalking people when they are eating, but, more in my left mind I did. I apologised. “You expected the entrée, not a fool with a drawing”. He graciously signed it, while I kept apologising to him and his companions.

Tim Walker in his five star review in The Telegraph said of Edward, “… has acquired a tremendous sense of majesty that makes him a magnetic stage presence: I sincerely hope he may yet get to play Lear and deliver the lines that remain so stubbornly in his head”…. or at least finish his post-show Italian dinner without interruption by a theatrical scribbler.