About 20% of this book is Sher's recollection of South Africa-- of his family, his favorite vacation spots, and of the ugly political realities. My inAbout 20% of this book is Sher's recollection of South Africa-- of his family, his favorite vacation spots, and of the ugly political realities. My interest in these subjects only stretches so far, and those chapters always slightly overstay their welcome. But the chapters about acting and theater are fascinating-- intensely so.
Sher is never satisfied with giving a "good" performance. His work must be excellent, the best it can possibly be. Furthermore, it must be something out of left field, a clever approach you wouldn't have anticipated. This holds even for the most famous parts, like Cyrano de Bergerac, Dr. Astrov, Josef K., Macbeth, and, of course, Richard III.
I may expand on this review later, since this book felt rather significant, but I skipped a few chapters, and so I must refrain for now....more
I enjoyed this book phenomenally. It serves as a reminder of the best parts of the theater acting process, parts which are easy for an amateur like meI enjoyed this book phenomenally. It serves as a reminder of the best parts of the theater acting process, parts which are easy for an amateur like me to lose track of when I sometimes get stuck in the mire of substandard school and community theater environments.
Sher's dedication to his art is inspiring: the massive amounts of mental energy he devotes to the part, his daily habits of practice, and his constant effort to keep up to snuff all go to show that the most successful people in their field have landed where they are because they care enough to make others care.
Sher has an amazing mind. Sharp, insightful, interesting, and with a keen sense of history. The long list of names he draws up (plays and characters, actors contemporary and old, companies, directors, and famous productions) hit with total relevance, because they tell the story of classical theater in modern times. It's a story which I'm glad to have learned (and, in a small way, inhabited) after him and people like him.
I'm a Henriad freak, and I came to this book after having seen Sher in the two productions he's writing on. I share his love for and familiarity with the plays, and after having seen his productions, I even know his castmates-- whenever he mentions Alex Hassell (Prince Hal), Tony Byrne (Ancient Pistol), or Oliver Ford Davies (Robert Shallow), their faces come up clear in my mind. That's quite a treat, and a privilege, since readers seldom sync up with their authors so closely!
My reverse-chronological tour of the Antony Sher memoirs ends today, inadvertently with the most famous and widely-read one. This book was written 15My reverse-chronological tour of the Antony Sher memoirs ends today, inadvertently with the most famous and widely-read one. This book was written 15 years before Beside Myself and 30 years before Year of the Fat Knight: The Falstaff Diaries. It may have done me good to read these in the order Sher wrote them. His nervousness and discomfort are intense in this book, though understandable when you consider the man who wrote them: a closeted homosexual in the 1980s, performing a leading role with the RSC for the first time in his life. Still, it's vexing when Malcolm Storry (who so uncomplainingly performs as Buckingham, Richard's constant sidekick) inquires if Sher will take a supporting role next to him in a contemporary play, and then is subject to days of Sher hemming and hawing about whether the part on offer is juicy enough.
The first half of this book is hardly about Richard at all, and instead focuses on his performances as King Lear's Fool and Tartuffe, the roles he took while considering the Richard offer. Those early chapters are interesting in themselves, and as useful to the actor playing those roles as the later chapters are to prospective crookbacks.
Also present in this early memoir, and not so much in the later memoirs, is a portrait of the RSC in its prime. Anecdotes and conversations with people like Kenneth Branagh, Brian Blessed, and Michael Gambon abound.
Sher is a sharp and pithy commentator, not only on the theatre, but on himself. That, in this book, he had yet to transition into the generous, nonjudgmental, and supremely observant figure of his old age is no fault....more
What's the purpose of reading a classic sci-fi/comedy novel? To be swept up on a lighthearted picaresque adventure, I suppose. So, does Hitchhiker's GWhat's the purpose of reading a classic sci-fi/comedy novel? To be swept up on a lighthearted picaresque adventure, I suppose. So, does Hitchhiker's Guide deliver on that? Not terribly. Most of the plot depends on inexplicably random twists of fate which scream "too-clever English novelist." Here's a novel that employs frequently-occurring extreme statistical improbabilities and mice revealing themselves as the most intelligent beings in the universe as movers of story. When everything happens so randomly, and is so detached from cause and effect, plot loses its drama and tension.
So, that's too bad. But how are the characters? Er, not very good. Here are our protagonists: Arthur Dent, an oblivious cipher who, as the aforementioned superintelligent mice say, is basically only good for blurting out "What?" and "I don't understand." Ford Prefect, a space-faring literary editor whose main personality trait is... competence? I guess? Or maybe composure? He's a very even-keeled guy. Zaphod Beeblebrox, president of the galaxy. He's supposed to be a rebellious, absent-minded genius, but we never get any reason to believe that, aside from being told that it's true. And, finally, Trillian, a Gal Friday of such epic proportions that her snarky asides of "oh, men!" are so tossed-off and inconsequential as to be negligible.
So, we're out of luck with characters, too. But is the book funny? Yes, here and there, if you're in the mood for a frustrated snort induced by world weary Vonnegut-style social satire. So, at least there's that.
I was really hoping to like this book, since I tick off a lot of the boxes (Monty Python, Kurt Vonnegut, Terry Pratchett, radio theater) but it just didn't work for me....more
I just finished performing as Dr. Rank in a very shabby production of this play, so I'm not feeling very generous. It feels like a less poetical, lessI just finished performing as Dr. Rank in a very shabby production of this play, so I'm not feeling very generous. It feels like a less poetical, less transcendent, and more opaquely literal Chekhov play. But performing in a play isn't the same as reading a play, and so I'm open to my mind being changed....more