Directed by Kathryn Hunter
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
Who we are, who we were, who we think we are, who we think we were, who others think we are, and who others think we were is the stuff of the process of examining one’s practice – even the stuff of metacognition. Such thinking can be restorative or contemplative; however, often it results in a kind of restlessness that skews one’s perception of the world or even one’s perception of one’s self. “Restless Mind Syndrome” sufferers lie awake for hours, deprived of sleep, thoughts and images racing through their minds in a seemingly unstoppable barrage of data demanding attention and/or resolution. “My Perfect Mind” splays the contents of Edward Petherbridge’s post-stroke mind in kaleidoscopic wonder across the stage at 59E59 as part of the Brits Off Broadway Festival.
Edward Petherbridge suffered a stroke just before starting rehearsals of “King Lear” at one point in his long career and, despite having a long recovery from the effects of the stroke, the whole lot of “Lear” remained in his mind. Mr. Petherbridge enacts scenes from “Lear” throughout “My Perfect Mind” (including the scene from which the title originates) and each enactment is a tribute to the actor’s enormous talent. Paul Hunter (as a host of interesting characters drawn from theatre, film, and television) plays various roles from “Lear” and the pair are at the same time profoundly touching and oddly hilarious.
On Michael Vale’s dramatically raked stage (complete with trapdoor) and a set stuffed full of theatrical accoutrements (thunder, rain, wind machines), the pair use the stuff of “Lear” to celebrate survival and longevity of spirit and resilience of mind. Directed with care by co-writer Kathryn Hunter, “My Perfect Mind” becomes Everyman’s opportunity to examine the often thin line between sanity and that which is not sanity and traverse that line with dignity and hope.
Whether it is advice from professional colleagues (Sir Laurence Olivier, for example) or from our post-stroke memories or from things we learn about our Dads long after they are gone, it is all part of the “telling of who we are” and the sorting out of what is real and what is not, what makes sense and what does not. And this is the gritty stuff of “My Perfect Mind” currently running at 59E59 Theaters. See it before June 28.