REVIEW: My Perfect Mind, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

Edward Petherbridge and Paul Hunter

Edward Petherbridge and Paul Hunter

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Oh yes it has, the pantomime season has arrived early in Scarborough.

My Perfect Mind is not billed as such – in fact its title, a line from King Lear, may lead audiences to think it’s far too cerebral for that.

Then there is its lead actor – Edward Petherbridge – not a performer one would normally associate with ‘it’s behind you’ unless talking about his career.

The self-deprecating Mr Petherbridge will not mind in the slightest that gag – My Perfect Mind is littered with such asides – thespian in jokes, waspish remarks about modern art and it positively encourages audience participation.

But let’s be serious – it is not a panto in the conventional sense.

It is the story of Petherbridge’s longing to ‘play the king’. He was two days in rehearsals for King Lear when he was struck down by a stroke which robbed him of that ambition. This collaboration with experimental theatre company Told By An Idiot is his consolation prize.

It is the story of how he did not play Lear – and so much more. Taking that as its baseline, the audience is treated to a look at the highlights of Petherbridge’s career, his relationships with his family and others in the profession.

Petherbridge – who is breath-takingly, effortlessly brilliant – plays himself and Paul Hunter – physically and stylistically the perfect foil, the rough with the smooth – plays everything from his doctor to his mother, his brother to Olivier.

There are lots of glimpses at the Lear Petherbridge would have delivered – and the one he would have refused to do.

The scenes of his frustration at his illness and Lear’s madness combined are heart-breaking. At other times it is tender and poignant as it explores the fragility of life. It is also screamingly funny.

In 90 minutes this play offers so much – oh yes it does.

It runs at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until Saturday November 15. Performances are Thursday November 13 at 1.45pm and 7.15pm. Friday November 14 at 7.45pm and Saturday November 15 at 2.45pm and 7.45pm.

Edward Petherbridge will be in conversation on Saturday at 4.30pm.

Review: Sue Wilkinson