Really Great Theatre Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas.

I’m a reader, I watch a lot of films, I occasionally get to classical concerts and galleries and sometimes even the Opera, but I rarely get to see plays any more. Thanks to Digital Theatre, I’ve got to see some great productions online, but I miss the inimitable power of live theatre. I guess living in a beautiful and remote part West Wales comes at a price, but I need to make more of an effort, as great theatre challenges and alters you, resonating long after the performance is over.

As a teenager I was privileged enough to be taken by my family to see some outstanding productions in London and Stratford upon Avon, and some of those performances were so powerful that they’ve not only stayed with me, but I believe I came away from them changed. Probably the most unforgettable performance I saw was Anthony Sher playing Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’. I’ll never forget his spidery twisted form creeping across the stage on crutches, part human, part insect, his evil intent palpable across the auditorium. That was in 1984 – over thirty years ago, and yet the impact of Sher’s performance still resonates with me as clearly as the day I saw it.

Anthony Sher as Richard iii

In trying to explain Shakespeare’s unshakable popularity, Sher suggested that Shakespeare’s plays really lend themselves to varied interpretation by both actors and directors. I’ve certainly seen some edgy Shakespeare productions set in different eras, effectively and creatively re-framing both the context and meaning of a play to create something entirely fresh and politically poignant.

I still can’t believe it’s over 30 years since I saw Anthony Sher play Richard III, and I think it’s high time I got hold of his published diary and sketchbook ‘Year of The King’ that was written about his preparation for the role and his experience of the production throughout it’s run. It’ll be interesting to get an idea of what it was like to bring such an unforgettable character to life, and whether he had any idea at the time that it would be heralded as a performance of a generation.

'Year of the King' Anthony Sher