22 December 2013


Yes, said Stephen. I will pass it time after time, allude to it, refer to it, catch a glimpse of it. It is only an item in the catalogue of Dublin's street furniture. Then all at once I see it and I know at once what it is: epiphany.
James Joyce, Stephen Hero 

Merry Christmas!

07 December 2013


Two sonnets in tribute to a little corner of NW6, past and present, and to one of West Hampstead’s most distinguished residents who died last month, the Nobel laureate Doris Lessing.

06 December 2013


This is a picture I took just off Piccadilly in the heart of Mayfair in July 2012.

Photo by EP

A new film blog will be posted very soon, partly in memory of another Nobel laureate. Stay tuned!

31 October 2013


An occasional sonnet this All Hallows’ Eve:


And another sneak preview of our book on West Hampstead:
NW6 Conservatory by EP. Acrylic on canvas. 2013

22 October 2013


Today marks the National Theatre’s golden anniversary and the official publication of Edward’s NT 50 special edition of Slim Chances, complete with bonus CD. The CD features a feast of extras and surprises.

The book will be available to purchase from Amazon and the NT Bookshop and signed copies are exclusively available from Peth’s Staging Post.

View the trailer here.


In a recent poll conducted by the Telegraph to decide the ten best productions of the National Theatre’s first decade (1963-1973), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1967) was voted No. 1.

John Stride and EP in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
Photo by Anthony Crickmay

10 October 2013


If you weren’t able to see Edward’s ‘National Histories’ Platform with Anna Carteret and Genista McIntosh on Monday night in The Shed, fear not as it was filmed and is now available to view online. Enjoy!

08 October 2013


The bonus CD inside each copy of Edward’s NT 50 special edition of Slim Chances will comprise readings of poems featured in the book as well as brand new poems exclusive to the CD. The following short films offer a sneak preview of the new material.

Thank you to those of you who have already pre-ordered your signed copies of the special edition. These will be dispatched by or before 22 October.

If you haven’t ordered a copy and would like to, please visit Peth’s Staging Post for details.


06 October 2013


Back cover design

Pre-order your signed copy of the NT 50 special edition of Slim Chances, complete with bonus CD, from Peth’s Staging Post.

The official publication date is 22nd October 2013.


28 September 2013


The 50th anniversary NT special edition of Edward’s book Slim Chances is to be published on 22nd October. It includes previously unpublished material, over eighty illustrations and a section on My Perfect Mind, for which Edward has received a UK Theatre Award nomination for Best Performance. There is also a bonus CD inside – Edward reading many of the poems featured in the volume.

The book will retail at £15, but check the Merchandise page of Edward’s official website for details of special offers and events related to the book’s publication. Meanwhile we are pleased to present a trailer for the book:


27 September 2013


Photo by Manuel Harlan

We are delighted to announce the exciting news that Edward has been nominated for Best Performance in a Play for My Perfect Mind in this year’s UK Theatre Awards.

The UK Theatre Awards, established in 1991, recognize stage productions presented throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This year’s awards, presented by the Theatrical Management Association (TMA), will be held at London’s Guildhall on Sunday, 20 October.

See the full list of nominations here.

And a reminder of some of the plaudits Edward received for his performance last spring:

Petherbridge’s mixture of bravado and frailty brings real heart to the enterprise. GUARDIAN

Petherbridge deliver[s] the mad king’s lines with a rare, spellbinding gentleness … My Perfect Mind is a show unlike any other and one that captures Petherbridge’s endearing personality, both as an actor – who can forget his extraordinarily moving Newman Noggs in the RSC’s Nicholas Nickleby? – and as a man. TELEGRAPH

Petherbridge gives a layered performance that combines candour, wit, quizzical vagueness and a dry dignity. His understated yet heartfelt work is essential to the success of this playful and highly unusual piece. EVENING STANDARD

In the guise of Lear, Petherbridge is both fragile and volatile – a great actor feeling at home in a great part. THE STAGE

What came out of all the heartbreak, physiotherapy and intense work Mr Petherbridge had to overcome was this stunning and incredibly beautiful production that in the case with all great works, left the audience laughing with the two actors but also more importantly empathising, a rare treat for any play to deliver in such great quantity. LIVERPOOL SOUND AND VISION

With Paul Hunter. Photo by Manuel Harlan

If you haven’t already seen them, be sure to catch the last two film blogs below – ‘The Poetry of Puppets’ and Puppetry of Acting’.


24 September 2013


Acting is nothing more or less than playing. The idea is to humanize life.
George Eliot

A sequel to yesterday’s film on the poetry of puppets:

22 September 2013


A day when I saw a puppet show in my hotel drawing room – my first amazed awakening to the fact of theatre. 
Martha Graham 

War Horse.
Photo by Simon Annand
I was reminded on Friday evening, when I saw the National’s magical production of War Horse for the third time, that some of the best, most moving performances I have seen over the years have been given by puppets: splendid representations of the human spirit. I am thinking of the Bunraku puppets of Japan, Lotte Reiniger’s first silhouette film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, and, dare I mention, Toy Story 3 which, I understand, made adults weep. Two particular memories I have were the inspiration behind the shadow puppets that featured in my production of The Bacchae for the Actors’ Company. 

On holiday in Greece in 1974, I saw a shadow theatre play one night in the open air and was taken backstage to watch from behind. It was my first visit to Greece and a last-minute package tour got me to a little village called Kamena Vourla, with a single mini-highrise hotel by the beach. It was by chance I walked into the village one night and noticed a show beginning. I sat on a bench under a small pergola facing a rough stone-built ‘shed’, which housed a shadow screen, maybe four feet wide. The puppets were almost Javanese in appearance and the story that of a battle between the Turks and Greeks. I remember the Greek hero being killed and a laurel wreath floating down from the sky to rest on his head and all the while a rasping voice through a microphone, out-Heroding Herod, played the entire cast of characters and provided the narration.

Karagiozis, the main protagonist
of Greek shadow theatre
I don’t recall how I got backstage; perhaps I peeped through the open door in the back of the shed and was welcomed in by the puppeteer’s momentarily spare hand. He had two boy helpers, no more than twelve years of age, whom he seemed to curse and order about sotto voce, averting his mouth from the mike to whisper urgent instructions about music cues; there was a little electric turntable and a handful of records. The puppets themselves were hinged so that they could turn one way or the other: they could be taken away from the screen, flicked and pressed back, having miraculously changed the direction of their attention. The boys were very busy and even handled the minor characters and somehow, throughout the melodramatic diatribes, the coherence of the drama was sustained against the intense atmosphere of impending theatrical disaster.
* * *
Lotte Reiniger’s Prince Achmed (the first animated feature film) had captivated me when I saw the film in a cinema in London. There is a moment when the young prince sees some winged water nymphs descend to bathe in a little lake and he hides to watch them, pulling a palm branch down, in profile, to conceal himself. Lotte had a ‘trick table’ on which all the scenes and puppets were arranged, tiny move by tiny move, to build up the action, each part of the whole film’s sequence was photographed, tiny action by action, by her husband Karl on a camera fixed above the table. As Achmed watches, I remember, there is a close-up of him and his lips part in wonder at the nymphs’ beauty. It struck me as a perfect, human piece of acting, such a simple, elemental gesture.

Lotte Reiniger
The following film tribute to the poetry of puppets contains footage from my 1989 one-man show 7001 Nights, including an attempt by me to act the part of Edward Gordon Craig’s idea of his über-marionette which he never built; it remained part theory and part dream to supersede the limitations of the human actor. I fear I am too busy acting the presence of strings so that I supersede nothing! (Incidentally, Gerry Anderson, inventor of the Supermarionation filming technique and producer of the 1960s cult classic Thunderbirds, was yet another distinguished resident of West Hampstead.)

15 September 2013


As part of my forthcoming special edition of Slim Chances (expected publication date 22 October), I set myself the task of composing a history of the National Theatre’s 50 years in 50 limericks. The film below is a goodly sample of the results.

We have another film in the works, to be posted soon. Here is a preview:

Photo by EP

With autumn now in earnest upon us, you may notice the blog’s seasonal change of background!

25 August 2013


Photo by EP

A special edition of Edward’s book Slim Chances, to celebrate the National Theatre’s 50th anniversary, is now in press with an expected publication date of 22 October 2013. (It was on 22 October 1963 that the NT was launched at the Old Vic with Olivier’s production of Hamlet, starring Peter O’Toole.) The book will also feature a section on My Perfect Mind, which had a triumphant London premiere at the Young Vic last spring.

Details of the book’s release, availability and any events relating to its launch will appear here and on the News blog in due course, along with a trailer. In the meantime, an exclusive sneak preview of the book’s front cover and back blurb.

(Click to enlarge image)
To mark the National Theatre’s 50th anniversary, Edward Petherbridge has produced a special edition of his autobiography, Slim Chances, focusing on his long association with the NT and introducing previously unpublished material and photographs.  
Petherbridge began his six-year tenure with Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre Company in 1964, walking on in Olivier’s Othello. Three years later he created the iconic role of Guildenstern in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Among his parts for the National on the South Bank have been Faulkland in The Rivals; Gaev in The Cherry Orchard; the Cardinal in The Duchess of Malfi; Alceste in The Misanthrope; Dr Dorn in The Seagull; and Coupler in The Relapse. With Ian McKellen in the 1980s he established the NT’s McKellen-Petherbridge Group.  
Also included, for the first time, is the story behind My Perfect Mind, which premiered in the spring of 2013 to great critical acclaim. The show, created by Petherbridge, Paul Hunter and Kathryn Hunter, fuses two main plots into one unique entity: the story of Shakespeare’s King Lear and that of the stroke which prevented Petherbridge, on the eve of his 71st birthday, from playing the role of a lifetime. And it features an unforgettable cameo by ‘Laurence Olivier’.  
No ordinary memoir, Slim Chances is an invaluable theatre book, with unique insights into the mechanics of the actor’s craft, and a moving exposition of the very heart of its mystery. In it Petherbridge’s talents as an essayist, poet, raconteur and artist come gloriously to the fore.
EP (Jermey) with Olivier (Tattle) in Congreve’s Love for Love.
Photo by Zoë

This Bank Holiday Monday at 3pm (BST) on BBC Radio 4, hear the second of Edward’s ‘appearances’ on Quote ... Unquote. The episode will be repeated on Saturday 31 August at 11 p.m. and available on BBC iPlayer for seven days after that.

Regular readers of Petherbridge’s Fortnightly Post may have noticed that the recent blog titled ‘Urban Kinetics’ mysteriously ‘dropped off’ the site. This was an accident. If you missed the film first time round, here it is again:


16 August 2013


It has taken me years of struggle, hard work, and research to learn to make one simple gesture, and I know enough about the art of writing to realize that it would take as many years of concentrated effort to write one simple, beautiful sentence. 
Isadora Duncan
Personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures. 
F. Scott Fitzgerald 

A new film from Petherbridge-Riley Studios – some thoughts on presentation, representation and indeed blogging:

It seems an apposite coda to a blog on presentation to mention that this month (28th August) marks the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. By way of celebrating that significant milestone, I leave you with a photograph I took, whilst on tour with the RSC in the late 90s, of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

Photo by EP
There is one day left to catch Edward in the first of two episodes of BBC Radio 4’s Quote ... Unquote. The second episode will be broadcast on Monday 26th August at 3 p.m. (BST). Don’t miss!

15 July 2013


Life etches itself onto our faces as we grow older, showing our violence, excesses or kindnesses.
Rembrandt is so deeply mysterious that he says things for which there are no words in any language. Rembrandt is truly called a magician … that’s not an easy calling. 
Van Gogh 

Fortnightly Post’ has been something of a misnomer lately, the reason being that Kathleen and I have been busily engaged in a special publishing project of which we may reveal more anon. However, we also have a brand new film in the works, to be posted next week, and in the meantime offer, by way of a prelude, a summer reprise of our Masks and Faces film, along with some other titbits we hope you’ll enjoy.

St George in stained glass by
Clayton and Bell.
Photo by EP
In the great Babel that is London one is confronted, on any given day, with a sea of faces, in its streets, on buses and the Underground, and in its solemn and secular temples – each face with its own mystery and life’s story. 

Artistically, too, one is constantly surprised and intrigued by faces – the strikingly modern painted with timeless technique;

An early 17th-century painting at the V&A.
Photo by EP

the deceptively ancient juxtaposed with the sleek lines of ultra modernity;

Emily Young’s sculpture Fana, Etruscan goddess of the Forest, at Neo Bankside.
Photo by EP

the genuinely ancient, suspended and frozen in the ecstasy of a long-forgotten dance;

Dancing Satyr, 4th-century BC, found in 1998 off the coast of Sicily.
Part of the Royal Academy’s Bronze exhibition.
Photo by EP

and the comfortably familiar in contemplation of the unfamiliar:

The statue of Sir John Betjeman looks up at the new giant installation,
Clouds: Meteoros by Lucy and Jorge Orta, floating above St Pancras.

Self-Portrait with Two Circles, ca 1665–69
Today marks the 407th birthday of that master of the human face, Rembrandt, whom Van Gogh declared truly a magician. I have said before that my proclivity for self-portraiture is attributable to the fact that I’m a cheap and patient model, but I take heart, too, from the fact that Rembrandt was an inveterate self-portraitist. I am fortunate to live only a couple of miles from his Self-Portrait with Two Circles at Kenwood House and a mere Tube journey away, on the Jubilee line, from his beautiful portrait of his sixteen-year-old son Titus. The latter shines like a good deed in a naughty world amidst the gilt and splendour of the Wallace Collection.

Titus, The Artist’s Son, ca 1657

Miniature by Girard, ca 1850
Also in the Wallace collection is the face of a celebrated Victorian beauty who features in our book on West Hampstead, a most colourful figure. Her name was Laura Thistlethwayte and she had a long and intimate friendship with Prime Minister Gladstone who likened her history to ‘a story from the Arabian Nights’. Her maternal grandfather was satirized by Thackeray as Lord Steyne in Vanity Fair. As a very young teenager she is said to have become a shop girl and part-time courtesan in Belfast. She them moved to Dublin where she was briefly on the stage and became involved with Oscar Wilde’s father. By 1850 she had moved to London where she caught the attention of the Prime Minister of Nepal, in London on a state visit, who is supposed to have spent a quarter of a million pounds on her. Edwin Landseer’s name was also linked with hers, and she is said to have helped him sculpt one of the lions in Trafalgar Square.

She married a Captain Frederick Thistlethwayte and lived with him in a house in Grosvenor Square. At some point she became an evangelical preacher, and took possession of Woodbine Cottage at West End Green in the early 1880s (her husband died in 1887) – a cottage ‘still large enough to support her pet deer’ – and it was there that she died in 1894.

I leave you, for now, with a small gathering of faces in modern-day West Hampstead (and, at its centre, a modern-day resident), just a stone’s throw from where Mrs Thistlethwayte’s deer roamed.

Photo by EP

24 June 2013


She looked at the canvas; it was blurred with a sudden intensity, as if she saw it clear for a second, she drew a line there, in the centre. It was done; it was finished. Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision.
Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse 

Gateway to Cannon Hill from Heath Drive.
Acrylic on canvas

This particular vision, not quite finished but still a work in progress, is an illustration for NW6 and All That, the book Kathleen and I are writing about West Hampstead. I began the painting two or three weeks ago in the belated blaze of spring, working occasionally en plein air in our suburban patch of Eden.

Photo by EP
I based the composition on a photograph I took from the vantage point of Heath Drive, NW3, looking across the busy intersection with Finchley Road to the top of stately Cannon Hill. The domed and redbrick building is Avenue Mansions, built in the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, when Heath Drive was still known as West Hampstead Avenue. Bean ‘modelled’ for the dog in the foreground.

Lower down Cannon Hill are Malborough Mansions whose distinguished residents have included the painter Sir William Coldstream, the conductor Sir Adrian Boult and the novelist Nigel Balchin who coined not only the brand name Kit Kat but also the terms ‘boffin’ and ‘backroom boys’. In the same street lived the eminent Victorian geologist Henry Bolingbroke Woodward and his artist daughter Alice, who produced the first illustrated version of Barrie’s Peter Pan. And at the bottom of Cannon Hill, on the corner of West End Lane, was the beginning of West Hampstead café society, a small establishment opened in 1884 as part of the temperance movement’s revival of the London coffee-house scene.

And now, by way of a sneak preview of our book, Kathleen will tell you about an interesting literary figure who spent an idyllic Edwardian childhood in West Hampstead Avenue and knew intimately the thoroughfares of Cannon Hill and Kidderpore Avenue (home to the wealthy dye merchant Charles Cannon who, in the 1870s, converted an old footpath into Cannon Hill).


The extravagantly named Vivian de Sola Pinto (1895-1969) was a leading scholarly authority on D. H. Lawrence and appeared for the defence in the Lady Chatterley Trial. He had been Siegfried Sasson’s second-in-command while they served with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in France during the First World War and he appears as ‘Velmore’ in Sassoon’s Sherston Memoirs. He was also a friend of the Sitwells and Robert Graves and moved very much in the artistic and cultural circles of the high modernist period.
Pinto (standing second from left) at Garsington with Ottoline Morrell
daughter Julian, E. M. Forster, the Bloomsbury historian Goldsworthy
Lowes Dickinson, and the canadian poet  Frank Prewett.
He grew up in a house called ‘Heathcroft’ in West Hampstead Avenue, which, thanks to a petition organized by his father, a tobacconist in St James’s Street, was rechristened Heath Drive – a subtle metamorphosis that, together with trees being planted by the council and a possible adjustment in postcode, allowed residents north of Cannon Hill to escape the ‘ignominy’ of being part of West Hampstead, NW6.

Photo by EP
Amazingly, he was living round the corner almost from ‘Derwen’ in Hermitage Lane the night a young ‘unknown poet’ from the Black Country, called Lawrence, read some of his own verses to a gathering that included Ezra Pound and W. B. Yeats.

In his memoirs, The City That Shone, Pinto describes the bucolic beauties surrounding and just beyond ‘Heathcroft’ and an epiphany he experienced one sunset, looking out over the rooftops of West Hampstead. But he also describes the sidings, bits of suburban waste land, new mansion blocks, and ‘glimpses of the great world of the Poor which surrounded on every side the comfortable island of bourgeois security’ on which he lived. His is thus a unique account of how, as late as 1905, the old rural hamlet of West-end and the new railway suburb of West Hampstead co-existed. Here is just a sample of his vivid prose poem to a vanished world:

On the ‘other side of the road’, as we called it, i.e. the side opposite to our house, there were, in those days, open fields where cattle grazed. They were separated from the road only by a wooden fence over which a very small boy could easily climb. Beautiful undulating meadows, they were full of deep grass with plenty of buttercups, dandelions and daisies in the summer and shaded by hawthorn bushes, great oaks and elms. In my early boyhood ‘the other side of the road’ was an enchanted country for me, where I could wander through acres of unspoilt meadow land and enjoy the thrill of squeezing through gaps in hedges and climbing over stiles to find myself in new and exciting surroundings. I can still shut my eyes and dream that I am lying in the deep grass of those meadows on a summer day and listening to the hum of insects, the crowing of distant cocks and other pleasant country noises. …

It was a fine evening in early spring and I was walking down Heath Drive with another child, probably my sister … There was a fine view to the west across the house-tops of West Hampstead and Kilburn with the usual grey haze over London, and above it the glowing splendour of the setting sun. In that grey hazy distance illuminated by the soft sunset light I saw a vision enclosed in a kind of circular frame. I described it to myself as a shining city full of people moving about among wonderful, coloured flames, though I knew that this was wholly inadequate description. I did not merely see this place but I seemed to be in it and to be actually close to the ‘shining people’ and one of them.


05 June 2013


The email account connected to Edward’s website was hacked early this morning, so apologies to anyone who received spam from it. You may be sure we are aware of the problem, which has now been rectified.


31 May 2013


A slow singer, but loading each phrase
With history's overtones, love, joy
And grief learned by his dark tribe
In other orchards and passed on
Instinctively as they are now,
But fresh always with new tears.

A new Spring look for the blog and a new film to celebrate Spring’s infinite mystery and magnificence.

15 May 2013


My tears are like the quiet drift
Of petals from some magic rose;
And all my grief flows from the rift
Of unremembered skies and snows. 
I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.
‘Clown in the Moon’ by Dylan Thomas (age 14)

A film to mark the closing (for now) of My Perfect Mind, to welcome the late burgeoning spring, and to celebrate the wonder of words and the potency of silence.


Lilac in May, NW6.
Photo by EP

Listen to an interview Edward and Paul Hunter did for Theatre Voice in which they discuss the conception and nature of the hugely successful My Perfect Mind. The interview was recorded at the Young Vic on 25 April 2013. It runs forty minutes and can be downloaded in mp3 form from the Theatre Voice website.


12 April 2013


Owing to fantastic reviews in the national media, and by popular demand, My Perfect Mind has been extended another week at the Young Vic. It now closes on Saturday, 4 May. Book tickets here.

To read the reviews following last week’s tremendous London press night, visit the News blog.

Photo by Manuel Harlan

06 April 2013


Friday was the London Press Night for My Perfect Mind. Reviews will appear on the News blog very soon.

The show is getting a terrific amount of coverage in the national media, including most recently a feature on BBC 2’s Newsnight (available only to UK viewers), an interview with Edward on Radio 3’s  Night Waves, and a critique on Radio 4’s Saturday Review.

Paul Hunter and EP in My Perfect Mind


31 March 2013


Those of you in the UK, or who subscribe to The Sunday Times online, can read Bryan Appleyard’s interview with Edward in Culture this Easter Sunday – ‘Lear and yet so far’.

There is also an appreciation of My Perfect Mind by Kathleen Riley at Vulpes Libris.

25 March 2013


We had now arrived in the heart of the big city, and as usual it was almost a heart of darkness. But it looked like a big city, there was no denying that. Here, emphatically, was the English seaport second only to London. The very weight of stone emphasised that fact. And even if the sun never seems to properly rise over it, I like a big city to proclaim itself a big city at once.
J. B. Priestley, English Journey (1934) 

The promised film featuring images captured, whilst on tour, of Liverpool’s teeming pool of life.

Last week My Perfect Mind travelled to Salisbury where, as in Liverpool, I lighted upon a Wimsey connection.

Photo by EP

The blue plaque, outside the Cathedral Hotel in Milford Street, reads: ‘Dorothy L. Sayers Godolphin School 1909-1911 wrote in her novel “Whose Body?” that Lord Peter Wimsey lunched here.’ The passage alluded to is:
Portrait of Dorothy L. Sayers.
Sir William Oliphant Hutchison. NPG
It was its comparative proximity to Milford Hill that induced Lord Peter to lunch at the Minster Hotel rather than at the White Hart or some other more picturesquely situated hostel. It was not a lunch calculated to cheer his mind; as in all Cathedral cities, the atmosphere of the Close pervades every nook and corner of Salisbury, and no food in that city but seems faintly flavoured with prayer-books. As he sat sadly consuming that impassive pale substance known to the English as ‘cheese’ unqualified (for there are cheeses which go openly by their names, as Stilton, Camembert, Gruyère, Wensleydale or Gorgonzola, but ‘cheese’ is cheese and everywhere the same), he inquired of the waiter the whereabouts of Mr. Crimplesham’s office. (Whose Body?, 1923)
After Easter, which threatens to be far from springlike, we open at the Young Vic for a London run that has already been extended by a week. As I muse by the fireside …  on the show and Lear and the journey still ahead, I leave you with one of the marginalia in Keats’s Folio copy of King Lear:
How finely is the brief of Lear sketched in this conference [Goneril and Regan’s discussion of Lear’s rejection of Cordelia] – from this point does Shakespeare spur him out to the mighty grapple – ‘the seeded pride that hath to his maturity blowne up’ Shakespeare doth scatter abroad on the winds of Passion, where the germs take buoyant root in stormy Air, suck up lightning sap, and become voiced dragons—self will and pride and wrath are taken at a rebound by his giant hand and mounted to the Clouds—there to remain and thunder evermore …

18 March 2013


A new film blog is imminent and will feature images captured by Edward on tour in Liverpool. Stay tuned!

Liverpool Docks. Photo by EP

This week My Perfect Mind travels to Salisbury.


04 March 2013


Theatre life, with its quarrels and muddles and vanities, is a form of lunacy: but the moonbeams of that lunacy can be of a radiance that does indeed reward. The occasional miracle of the theatre its inhabitants know: indeed, by it they live.
Ivor Brown,  Shakespeare

Sunset, Drake’s Wharf, Royal William Yard.
Photo by EP

Sunday morning I have just added to my too heavy luggage by buying the huge bulk of The Sunday Times at Plymouth railway station. I have a very large bruise on my upper right thigh though the sensitivity is located in my buttock bone. The acupuncturist, a Mr Ding, dealt with it during the last of three visits for my traumatized left kneecap. Mr Ding rang the right bells I trust, but I have been climbing rather than hopping onto buses in Plymouth, and oh so slowly wrenching myself out of taxis like a genuine geriatric for the last weeks.

I collapsed twice back in Wellington, New Zealand nearly six years ago. Paradoxically the stroke must have engineered two perfect stage falls – not a bruise nor a troubled joint; well I think I cut my head. However it was the other night on stage in Plymouth, in pursuit of a convincing dramatic recreation of the very same stroke, that, inexpertly, I fell too heavily on my arse, having already ten days before fell off the platform whilst entering Lear’s hovel during rehearsal.

I suspect Doctor Theatre has been every bit as good as Mr Ding, better perhaps at allowing me to prance up and down and even attempt an autumn leaf in the wind on Michael Vale’s sheer white steep incline of a worthy scaffold. The good Doctor’s endorphins, or whatever he induces, faithfully took effect nightly at the five-minute call.

Me age twenty-two.
Gisborne Photo News
Sunday evening I met a middle-aged man on the railway platform this morning, who had been a touring member of a band in his youth. He was off to Brighton to give some lectures and remembered not at all fondly his days of one-night international gigs and lots of alcohol. He asked how I found touring ‘at your age’. This sort of thing I get a lot now; people even ask me ‘Do you still do any acting?’ It surprises me, since, even struggling with rather too much luggage and the gnawing knee and buttock, essentially I feel I’m the same Petherbridge who went on tour to New Zealand in 1958 or with Trelawny of the ‘Wells’ in 1965 (a rave review I see in today’s Sunday Times for the new Donmar revival of the dear old play, ‘with’, it is claimed, ‘some most respectful additions and ornamentations’). 

As Ferdinand Gadd with Louise Purnell (Rose Trelawny)
and Pauline Taylor (Imogen Parrott).
Photo by Angus McBean

Critic and novelist Christopher Hart has fallen for the Victorian theatrical glories of the play completely. Clearly Arthur Wing Pinero’s ‘great achievement’ creates as much affection now in at least one critic’s heart as it did in my twenty-seven-year-old heart when it provided me with my first good part at the National all those eons ago. I feel I could don the wig and yellow suit designed for my Ferdinand Gadd by Motley and go on, given a day or two to let out the waist a touch and brush up the lines: ‘Avonia, there’s something to lay hold of here. I’ll think this over. … I’ll play it!’ 

With Maggie Smith as Avonia.
Photo by Zoe Dominic

Tuesday we head to Liverpool ...

‘Have Lear, will travel’.
Rehearsal photo by KR

Read the first crop of reviews of My Perfect Mind here. And view a series of production shots on Flickr.

26 February 2013


Photo by Manuel Harlan

Hear a wonderful interview Edward did live on BBC Radio Devon this morning. He talks to Judi Spiers about My Perfect Mind in which he is currently appearing at Plymouth’s Drum Theatre.

Click to play interview.

The interview begins at 2:05:37 and ends at 2:29:36. There are six days left to listen.


21 February 2013


Edward Petherbridge and Paul Hunter in My Perfect Mind.
Photo by Manuel Harlan
The first reviews for My Perfect Mind, which opened in Plymouth last Thursday, have been posted on Edward’s News blog. More reviews and photos will appear there in due course.

After Plymouth, the show moves to Liverpool, Salisbury and the Young Vic. For details of dates and venues, also see the News blog.

Don’t miss this unique and beautiful piece of theatre.