Monday, June 24, 2019

Book Note: Year of the Mad King

Sher, Antony. Year of the Mad King: The Lear Diaries. Illus. Antony Sher. London: Nick Hern, 2018.

And now we have the latest (please note that I didn't say "last") of the Antony Sher acting diaries: Year of the Mad King. We've seen Year of the King (for which, q.v.)—the not-mad-but-possibly-psychotic-or-sociopathic king, and we've had Year of the Fat Knight (for which, q.v.). Now it's time for one of the leading Shakespearean actors to tell us his journey to King Lear.

As is the case with all of these—they're diaries, after all—the book has a rambling, unpolished quality, but (as with all of these) it also offers some good insight into the play itself, the role itself, and a leading actor's way of approaching the role itself.

We also get some insight into the director's thought processes—and a greater understanding of just how much a director of the caliber of Gregory Doran has to keep in his mind. And how much a Shakespearean actor of the caliber of Antony Sher has to keep in his mind as well. Can you imagine playing Falstaff while trying to get the lines from Lear memory perfect?

We also have Sher's sketches, including this one of Lear cursing:

It's a good read for the actor, the Shakespearean actor, the Shakespearean aficionado, and the general theatergoer.

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Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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