Edward Petherbridge

Friday, 01 March 2013 00:00 | Posted by 
How do you prepare to enter a rehearsal period?
Preparing to rehearse for the first run of the play I did after the stroke that robbed me of Lear, I vowed to jog from the Tube station to the rehearsal room every morning. Slowly my jogging has improved since then. Even to play Shakespeare’s abdicating old king, ‘four score years and upwards’ as he describes himself, one needs to be as nimble and as fit as possible: I still do exercises I used to do as a young actor at the National Theatre in the 1960s. For this rehearsal period it seems as if all roads lead to Lear and the ‘comic’ riffs that tell our story, so that even seeing a film or listening to the news, or observing an elderly man on a bus (even if it turns out to be my own reflection in the window) is part of the preparation period.      
 
Describe an average day in the rehearsal room
Working with Paul and our director Kathryn, ‘average’ seems to be the wrong word, but for years now there have been directors and companies who use methods of working on a show that would have seemed like average drama therapy had they been used when I first began. Some still seem like that to me, and either wrong headed, time-wasting or pretentious, whilst other methods are liberating. I’m not keen on tossing beanbags or ‘trust exercises’ – one learns whom one can trust.     
 
How do you work with Kathryn and Paul?
We don’t decide anything in cold blood – devising the show is done through the heat of improvisation. Usefully we have had Michael Vale’s set to work on almost from the beginning. Kathryn might suggest an idea and Paul and I go at it and end up in some odd, sometimes exciting places, whether in Lear’s Britain (and we have sat and read scenes together of course) or we are simply on or under the steep white slope of the stage. Sometimes it is as if we are taking part in an exhilarating magic master class.
 
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Well it’s not answering questionnaires like this. It’s a privilege to be asked, but one is afraid of sounding pompous or worse.  I have enjoyed working with so many talented people, I am tempted to ask ‘what’s not to like?’ but the job can be frustrating or even dull. At its best there is something special about reaching a kind of truth through pretending … having an inkling about what it is like to be someone else, somewhere else, perhaps some when else. We start our pretending games when we are tiny children. I play pretending games with our terrier dog every day; there is something elemental about it, it’s in our DNA.

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