Skip to main content

My Perfect Mind- the experience of not- Young Vic

My Perfect Mind, just opening at the Young Vic is an essay upon the nature of truth and reality [the battle between magic and reality both in our minds and the theatre] illusion and hyper reality and plays around with notions of identity expectations.
It’s based on Edward Petherbridge’s real life history [here playing himself]and charts the actor’s 2007 journey to New Zealand to fulfill his lifelong ambition to play King Lear, only to suffer a paralyzing stroke two days into rehearsal. What follows is a series of dramatic and comedic associative events as Edward Petherbridge, metamorphosing into Lear and back again and supported by a dynamic Paul Hunter playing a series of fall guy characters from a German Psychiatrist to a Romanian Shakespeare academic, zips back and forth in time and particularly so, to the moment when his mother, just two days before his own birth, suffered a similar crippling stroke in Yorkshire.
What is our experiential truth and how does that manifest itself in contrast with an objective [if any, as we can only perceive according to our level of consciousness] perception of reality? At one point Edward Petherbridge tries to answer, relating how, in a play at the National Theatre, he was suddenly aware that out there, beyond the confines of the auditorium, were courts and hospitals and the Houses of Parliament- real lawyers, real doctors but yet, the realness for him- the supposed hyper reality of the imaginary world he was in- contained the real stillness and the real truth. The issue of identity and the expectations that go with that is also raised. At first Paul Hunter’s psychiatrist claims the actor is suffering from King Lear Syndrome- someone who believes he is Lear. But later it turns out he has Edward Petherbridge syndrome instead. A comment on the ego perhaps, its expectations of itself and desperate need to create sense and meaning? A rejection or discarding of one identity in favor of another when it feels appropriate? Who is who?
OMPM6ther reviews have suggested that the Edward Petherbridge/ King Lear/ Fool dynamic in this 90-minute comic two hander wonderfully directed by Kathryn Hunter, is a comment on the universal foolish man who would be king but it’s even simpler than that, as it suggests that the king and the fool reside alongside each other in us all. As My Perfect Mind wonderfully exemplifies then [the trick being the mind is perfect simply because it isn’t], the nature of one’s own reality [and hyper reality] and truth, depends on individual perceptions of and reactions to external events and therefore determines which character one decides to be- the self, the king, the fool or all three.
Edward Petherbridge gets his magic in the end and is King Lear but it’s a magic fashioned and derived from the detritus of a tragic event that could have turned out differently if other perceptions and choices were made. The play’s a great teacher and has some wonderful comic moments and is a nice complement to the Young Vic’s main house show, A Streetcar Named Desire, where the longing for a different kind of magic hyper reality has disastrous consequences.

My Perfect Mind runs until 27 September at the Young Vic

A Told by an Idiot, Young Vic and Theatre Royal Plymouth co-production
Created by Told by an Idiot to book

Written by Kathryn Hunter, Paul Hunter and Edward Petherbridge

Direction – Kathryn Hunter
Design – Michael Vale
Light- Alex Wardle for Charcoalblue
Sound- Gregory Clarke
Associate Director- Mia Theil Have
Script Consultant- Kathleen Riley
Touring Production Manager- Andy Beardmore
Company Stage Manager- Carol Pestridge
Technical Stage Manager- Rachel Bowen


Popular posts from this blog

Collabo- Hip hop with a difference

There’s a buzz in the air at Stratford Circus Arts Centre. No wonder, this is the 10th anniversary of Collabo, Tony Adigun’s annual dance celebration founded in 2006 to promote new collaborations and hip-hop hybrids from dance groups. Friday’s program of short portfolios opens with 10 (UnTitled Dance Company) choreographed by Lukas McFarlane lasting fifteen minutes (no mean feat in the hip-hop world) and featuring 10 tracks and illustrating some super synchronised steps and gyros executed with military precision. The occasional, surprising rigidness of the choreography is broken by experimentation with spoken word. Liberation (What Is Written Dance Company) has the same exactness, but their more simple choreography is easier on the eye after the mass sprawl of 10. Kweku Aacht and Guest Dancers produce an interpretation of a track performed live onstage- the sometimes rowdy crowd shouting out and encouraging the performers on hold their breath as the troupe fluctuate between free style a…

Once in a Lifetime- theatre review: slightly revised to reflect the ambiguous ending

Once in a Lifetime is a show about the tenuous and complicated relationship between creativity and destruction. Re-adapted here by Chris Hart, son of one half of the original writing duo Moss Hart and George S Kaufman, the show may well be set in 1930s Hollywood just as the talkies are about to change cinema forever, but it might also be poking fun at an art form that is a little closer to home. Director Richard Jones always takes risks with little produced, marginalised or very well known works in a bid to uncover something new that might be a comment on our own times. Here, a story about hapless Vaudeville trio act George (John Marquez), Jerry (Kevin Bishop) and May (Claudie Blakley), who set out to conquer Hollywood with their mythic elocution school, is the perfect fit for the director to explore themes that seem to obsess him: national myth, parody, the tyranny of power, willed self-destruction, bureaucracy, global fantasy, etc. So far, the show has not gone down so well with the c…

Walking the Tightrope- Theatre Delicatessen

Site-specific set? Perhaps. In the old Guardian offices in Farringdon, Offstage Theatre and Theatre Uncut curate a cycle of 12 short plays exploring the tension[s] between art and politics, reactions to the budget cuts to the arts in the UK and debate freedom of expression controversies. Corruption, class divides, perception, blood money, gesture politics and culpability, it’s all there and recent topical events are given stage time, from The Tricycle’s controversial decision to withdraw their support for the UK Jewish Film Festival to the Barbican’s cancelled Exhibit B. The plays are entertaining- Sun City by April De Angelis, Re: Exhibit by Gbolahan Obisesan, Old Newland by Julie Pascal, Tickets are on Sale Now by Caryl Churchill and Exhibit A, by Neil LaBute, all deserve special mention for looking beyond the parameters of funding and freedom of expression in the UK arts- by which of course, I mean a theatrical London still surfing the very last trickling waves of Colonialism and it…