Theatre review: My Perfect Mind  

Young Vic, Review by Lesley Finlay

If there was ever proof needed that William Shakespeare can speak to audiences today then Kathryn Hunter’s clever, beautiful and inspired My Perfect Mind is it.

The short but bittersweet play tells the true story of Edward Petherbridge who was struck down by a major stroke just as he was preparing to play King Lear in New Zealand. During his recovery, he realises he can remember every word of the play. The classical actor is here, telling the story with the energetic Paul Hunter, in vignettes; exploring the nature of old age, loss of control and life itself.

The contrast of bemused, older man and frenetic younger man adds strength to the storytelling: in an interview it was Petherbridge’s aim to get as much King Lear into the show while it was Hunter’s to ramp up the comedy.

Created by Told by an Idiot, the anarchic and physical company now 21 years old, with the Young Vic and Theatre Royal Plymouth co-production, this is genuinely hilarious with laugh out loud moments from both players.

In terms of what insights it gives to King Lear, this cannot be underestimated. Lear’s agony comes from deep within Petherbridge, and offers an insight into the art of an actor: to share that pain you have to feel it. Both actors offer a masterclass in timing: pace is maintained throughout and the natural pauses where we consider the pathos of Petherbridge’s situation, offers just enough time for reflection.

It’s on tour for a short while. For goodness sake, get your A level students a ticket. To celebrate the 21st anniversary, Told by An Idiot has launched a membership scheme. Head to to sign up.