★★★★★ | MY PERFECT MIND, The Rep – Birmingham
Epically Humorous and Uncompromisingly Sincere

Told by An Idiot’s “My Perfect Mind” stuns The Door of The Birmingham Rep, with its simplistic yet meaningful set and with its mastermind-like quality of acting. This astonishing play is an account of the actor Edward Petherbridge suffering from a stroke and his recovery, with help of a friend, Paul Hunter who does everything in his power to accommodate Edward’s imagination and fantasy.

“My Perfect Mind” draws inspiration from the story of Edward Petherbridge’s second rehearsal of King Lear, where he suffered a severe stroke, which left him almost paralysed. Upon recovery, Edward comes to an enlightening discovery. Though his mobility had suffered from this event, all the lines for his part, King Lear, lived in his memory still.

King Lear is one of Shakespeare’s most enigmatic and profound plays starting off with this 80 something King abdicating his land and rule by splitting it into three parts to give to his three daughters: Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. He asks of them, as an exchange for this gift, their expression of love to him. Goneril and Regan obey, but Cordelia upon being asked what she feels about her father, she merely says: “nothing”, which makes the old king banish her. Later on, in the play Lear loses his rule, goes insane and is banished. Shakespeare loved happy endings.

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The 90-minute play was filled with powerful energy and with a plethora of characters coming from one actor – Paul Hunter. Hunter had an incredible ability to multipart with astonishing speed, parts of which seemed to give Edward the Wonderland of Lear. Every time a new character emerged they asked Edward what he was doing? To which he always replied with “I am performing King Lear”, then Hunter, in character, acted impressed and amazed every time. Hunter blew the audience away with his gift of shape shifting between characters and with his unrivalled ability to seduce the crowd with laughter, particularly when he switched from David to Carol.

Petherbridge’s story shone brightly on stage, as he played himself and the situation so vividly, it appeared we were witnessing the event real-time. His roaring delivery of speeches and then his sweet old-man like voice provided us with an emotional journey of discovery and recovery. We were left wishing we could hear Edward perform “King Lear” for real. The dramatic device Edward used with splashing paint over the wall was epic, as he belted Lear’s storms speech.

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One conclusion I can draw from this experience and it is somewhat ironic. King Lear goes through the play receding in his mental capacity and suffering bitterly, yet Edward used King Lear as a form of recovery. The fact that he still remembered the part, post-stroke, gave him a great sensation and by fate, he falls into the delightful direction of Kathryn Hunter and on the tour of “My Perfect Mind” depicting his story so magnificently.

04 – 08 November 2014