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 It includes previously unpublished material, over eighty illustrations and a section on My Perfect Mind, for which Edward has received a UK Theatre Award nomination for Best Performance.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!