23 October, 2014


A clean sweep of lovely 5-Star reviews as My Perfect Mind returns to Liverpool’s Unity Theatre.

Standing on the shoulders of giants is never easy, but the view that you see, the distance and insight made possible because of their shining example is worth more than mere currency, it is the opportunity granted to learn and take note. Such is the effect that the return to Unity Theatre of Told By An Idiot’s My Perfect Mind has on the audience that it time to come it will surely be looked upon as a classic piece of theatre of the early 21st Century.

The Human brain is such a fragile piece of complex machinery, a computer more powerful and with the ability to do so much, that one tiny breakdown, one small clot that forms in its narrow passageways, can cause the machine to send error messages that have the intricate and complicated synapses terrified of knowing what’s to come next. For Edward Petherbridge and Paul Hunter, My Perfect Mind is not just a play; it is an exercise in reconnection, of producing the delicate balance between the devastating effects of synaptic misfires and stroke and the humour in performance. It is a moment in time to treasure as they succeed perfectly.

My Perfect Mind is a response to Edward Petherbridge’s stroke as he was starting rehearsals in New Zealand for King Lear. The might of King’s wrath against his daughter bought more damaging fruit that would ever be thought possible but also allowed something sensational, something only the Human brain could perhaps allow, to surface. Lear’s Fool can be said to be unseen, that only the aged monarch can truly see him, the whispering ghost of conscience, much like a brain sent out of phase by illness, only the fool can bring Lear back to a safer place.

For Paul Hunter to perform every other part in Mr. Petherbridge’s life, from his mother who by some sort of genetic breakdown also suffered a stroke two days before she gave birth to the classic actor, to an outrageously superb Laurence Olivier, taxi drivers, the young Australian actor fresh out of Drama School to the Doctor who treated him in the weeks after the stroke, all the players had their parts to play in the life and rehabilitation of the man and Mr. Hunter was exquisite at connecting those dots.

It is though Mr. Petherbridge who holds the play and the his life up for scrutiny, a herculean moment on stage as all is laid bare but with grace, humility and the right amount of laughter in which to show that the Human mind may be fragile, might be imperfect and capable of being bruised and haunted but like Lear himself, capable of reaching out through the darkness and creating something stunning and noble.

If in 2013 My Perfect Mind was one of the finest plays to come to Liverpool, then in 2014 it doesn’t just stand on the shoulders of giants, it whispers down its ears and points the way forward. Spellbinding!
Ian D. Hall, Liverpool Sound and Vision

This is a larger than life show, achingly funny at times and brings together all that a night out at the theatre should be. With a clever script and set design and two wonderful actors that lead you through ninety minutes of sheer joy and merriment, My Perfect Mind is a must see.
Janie Phillips, WhatsOnStage (read full review)

He’s compelling as Lear, delivering his regal speeches and dejected ramblings in a wonderful low-key manner, but he’s even more of a delight as himself – offering in an hour and a half a beautifully layered self-portrait, revealing a self-deprecating, generous and determined individual. If this is the real Edward Petherbridge, no wonder Hunter wanted to work with him again. … The play has a tremendous sense of balance. It deals with a great big difficult subject with a brilliant lightness of touch that doesn’t for one moment undermine the seriousness. There are some delightful jibes at the acting profession, but it never tips into thespian self-indulgence. And Shakespeare is given just the right amount of space. My Perfect Mind is an impeccably crafted piece of theatre. Bold storytelling, packed with joyous humour and full of fresh ideas.
Jo Beggs, The Public Reviews (read full review)

Yesterday Edward and Paul Hunter were interviewed about the show on BBC Radio Merseyside. Hear them on BBC iPlayer (the interview begins approximately 40 minutes in).

Liverpool Anglican Cathedral’s massive Vestey Tower by night.
Photo by EP

From the Unity audience comment board.
Photo by EP

22 October, 2014


A review by Mark Smith for British Theatre Guide:

Having debuted this show last year, Paul Hunter and Edward Petherbridge now return for another tour of their superlative two-man ‘comic tale of a man not doing King Lear’.

Told by an Idiot, a feisty twenty-one years old this year, ploughs some of the same fertile territory as devising behemoth Complicite, and in fact this show is directed by that company’s founder member Kathryn Hunter. But, where Simon McBurney’s enterprise turns visual imagery and gigantic-scale international productions to the service of adaptation, Paul Hunter’s company remains resolutely human-sized—Complicite’s chatty, personable, more nimble younger cousin.

So part of what you get from this 90-minute two-hander is an absolute masterclass in comedy and clowning of all kinds—both physical and verbal. Unassuming in person, Hunter has honed his comic instincts with an expertise which seems always organic, never forced. If there’s one thing this man knows, it’s how to deliver a punchline; ‘here’s a good fool’, as Petherbridge aptly announces.

The pair are a match made in heaven, the Morecambe and Wise of theatrical anecdotage. Some of the audience have clearly come to hear Petherbridge recount tales of his previous roles, and in this they were not disappointed. Now aged 78, he has done service with a number of distinguished companies, notably as one of the first members of the National Theatre company, where he was the first Guildenstern in Stoppard’s breakthrough comedy.

The clowning sensibilities and sharp mind required for that mammoth role have not diminished in the intervening years, and Petherbridge gamely sends himself up, swapping the roles of straight man and comic lead repeatedly with his co-performer and deviser.

Structurally, the show again evidences the company’s trademark devising expertise. The rule of threes, the repeated gag or catchphrase, extended setups and callbacks, and the return of certain anecdotes ‘once as tragedy then as farce’—all are in strong evidence here.

There are moments of anarchy and lines which could have been lifted straight from The Goon Show: ‘I never forget a pair of legs!’, exclaims Hunter at one point. But he also plays obedient sounding board to Petherbridge at key moments, with his hunched attentiveness evidencing his onstage generosity and the clear bond between the duo.

Photo by Manuel Harlan
To say too much about the twists and turns of the evening would be to spoil some of the joy, but Paul Hunter welcomes us in to a scenario which sees us genuinely uncertain as to who is playing whom in the show. As a ridiculous German scientist, he warns us that the man soon to enter the stage is suffering from a dose of Edward Petherbridge Syndrome, believing himself to be ‘a tawdry actor in West Hampstead’, liable to flog us his autobiography at the entrance to the theatre.

The evening hinges around the relationship between the pair—or the three if you count the ever-present ghost of Lear, of whose presence the Arden text becomes a poignant totem. Petherbridge was signed up to a performance of the emblematic role for a company in New Zealand, but suffered a severe stroke before rehearsals could get properly under way.

This performance that never was haunts a superbly comic evening which manages simultaneously to provoke guffaws and probe the actor’s attack and thwarted ambitions. Various other ghosts are conjured over the evening as the show probes Petherbridge’s autobiography touchingly but never mawkishly, irreverently but never disrespectfully.

There is so much to take away from the show, whether you’re a Petherbridge fan, an aficionado of the theatre (joyous dramatic gags and puns abound), or just a lover of well-crafted comedy which asks with lightness of touch and moving perceptiveness: ‘where does memory end and imagination begin?’.

This week My Perfect Mind is at the Unity Theatre, Liverpool.

14 October, 2014


This week My Perfect Mind continues its successful national tour at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds (Wednesday, 15 October-Saturday, 18 October).

At 2pm on Thursday, you can hear Edward interviewed live on the BBC Radio Leeds programme One on One, which is similar in format to Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs. The interview will also be available on BBC iPlayer after the broadcast.

Photo by Manuel Harlan

03 October, 2014


My Perfect Mind has been most warmly received at the Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol.
In My Perfect Mind Petherbridge and Paul Hunter make an unlikely but effective double act. Petherbridge tall, dignified, craggily handsome; Hunter, shorter, more rotund, giving the impression he would wear a lampshade if it got a laugh. On a vertiginously raked stage the pair manage to deconstruct King Lear and Edward’s career in a manner both anarchic and structured at the same time. Petherbridge either plays himself, or Lear, but Hunter plays multiple roles. … a satisfying combination of wit, invention and actorly skill gave the audience food for thought as well as a refracted vision of one of Shakespeare’s best plays. (Bristol Post. Read full review)
An inventive, hilarious biographical show ...If there is a Lear in Petherbridge’s future, well its hard to see how it will be a better artistic triumph then what has been produced here. (WhatsOnStage. Read full review
Mural by German street artists Herakut on the 
side of the Tobacco Factory Theatre. 
Photo by EP

02 October, 2014


Yesterday Edward was interviewed by Graham Rogers on The Afternoon Show, BBC Radio Bristol. You can hear this delightful interview online. It begins at 1:37:30 and is available for the next seven days.

Edward with Graham Rogers at Radio Bristol
Edward is currently appearing in My Perfect Mind at the Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol. Next stop Leeds.
Despite being viewed through the prism of Lear’s madness, My Perfect Mind is far from an out-and-out tragedy. As a two-hander, it’s performed with great sensitivity and involves its appreciative audience from the start. The play may question identity and contain serious reflections on the resilience of the human spirit, but it is ever draped in the warm overcoat of comedy. Ultimately, this renders the theatrical experience all the more moving, because it becomes a tender celebration of a life retrieved. (Claire Hayes, The Public Reviews. Read the full review of the first performance in Bristol)