Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Long Live King Postlethwaite" ( and when read, see my Addendum added Nov 10th!)




Most important, folks: This man has the sharpest cheekbones I've ever seen.
Pete Postlethwaite was born in Warrington, nr Liverpool, 63 years ago to a Roman Catholic barrelmaker and his wife. They encouraged his love of acting and gave him a base from which to fly. And the boy from Warrington has certainly flown!
He saw his 1st plays at the cosy and somewhat scruffy ( totally one-off ) Liverpool Everyman Theatre. ( see http://www.everymanplayhouse.com/ ) These plays were Classics: "Waiting for Godot" " Look back in Anger" and " Murder in the Cathedral".
He started his career at the Everyman in the 70's. He worked with a tribe of actors who became legendary, including Willy Russell, Jonathan Pryce, Mathew Kelly, Alison Steadman, Julie Walters ( she was his lover for a while) Bill Nighie and more...
And for the next month, Postlethwaite is back where he began. He's playing Lear at the Everyman in a superb production of the play directed by Rupert Goold. And Postlethwaite is glad to be back. Liverpool's unique, he says. Scousers in white vans wind down their windows and bawl out: " All right, Pete?" sticking their thumbs up in welcome, like neighbours meeting matily in the street.
Postlethwaite says that the Everyman is the most interesting of spaces He says that acting in it is just like returning to the womb. ( See, I said the Everyman was "cosy"!)
And he's returned to this womb in the finest of styles. For a few weeks, he'll thrill Liverpudlians ( and countless other Thespians) with his courageous and mind-blowing portrayal of Shakespeare's " King Lear". He'll provoke and terrify, stun and delight in equal measure.
"Who is it that can tell me who I am?"Postlethwaite will cry, and the audience will listen and the audience will shiver, as one of our greatest British actors excels in a part... which he himself describes as " equivalent of tackling North face of the Eiger"
Postlethwaite's certainly tacked it and he's conquered his Eiger too. His 2008 creation of a wicked, sad, crazy Lear will be long remembered. It will be revered by a proud City of Culture, by the world of theatre too.
And it will be remembered by me and some of my family, as we watched last night ( sitting snugly in our seats in this cosy womb-like theatre) ....watching as a self-made man ( plus cheekbones) came home to his roots.
ADDDDENDDDUUUM ( Mon Nov 10th) : It seems critics and playgoers have lots of differing opinions re this production ( see particularly: Sunday Times Culture, yesterday, and Guardian last wk ) ........BUT I believe this 2008 Lear was for Liverpool. And L'pool has its own famously specific " culture" ( like it or loathe it, if you get m'drift) and in that case, this Lear was exactly right.
It was courageous in many ways. It veered far from the brilliant production I saw at Stratford ( Nigel Hawthorne as Lear) but why on earth shouldn't it?? And as for Postlethwaite appearing as a " bewildered pensioner", isn't that exactly what Lear was??!
The Everyman production was startling, it scared, it horrified in many places but if theatre doesn't experiment, if it doesn't shock, provoke...then it never moves on . And then neither can we decide what is best or finest for US personally ...theatre is personal to each of us.
And that, I suppose, is why watching a play ( entering a world where your own imagination can run alongside writers and actors too) is so intimate, so private an experience, so very exciting...

12 Comments:

Blogger apprentice said...

A great piece of writing Jan. He leaps of the page here. He's a fantastic actor, one of a great crop of fine northern actors.

11:46 am  
Blogger Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Great post, Jan, and Postlethwaite is certainly a very memorable actor - I can just visualise him playing Lear, I think he'll be excellent. I remember first seeing him, years ago, in James and the Giant Peach! ;-)

5:29 pm  
Blogger Debs said...

He is a great actor. Strangely enough, we had a man fixing our lift at work last week who looked like a shorter version of PP.

5:50 pm  
Blogger Isabelle said...

He's the last person I would have imagined as Lear, but I suppose with a beard... Interesting casting. I can't quite imagine him with a kingly accent.

11:14 pm  
Blogger Sarah Laurence said...

I do miss the theater in England. Aren't you lucky to see such a great actor in a classic play. Have you read Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres? It's Lear set in the American midwest in the 1970's with a feminist twist. It's dark but good.

11:29 pm  
Blogger herhimnbryn said...

I am now suffering with green envy!

6:18 am  
Blogger Jan said...

Appren:
Yes, he is.
It must've been fantastic when they all worked together.
I knew J Pryce when I was at college ( he was then John Price!) and have watched his career with interest.

Vanilla:
He's clearly versatile!

Debs:
AH...but DID this guy have the razorsharp cheekbones of Postlethwaite?

Isabelle:
I hear lots of folk felt as you did.
The proof I suppose is in the
pudding..

Sarah:
Yes, if you peep in my profile, you'll see "1000Acres" is one of my favourite bks ever.
You've reminded me to have a go again!!

Herhimnbryn:
Suffering with green envy!
Wow!!
You've given me an idea for a writing exercise...Thanks!!

8:21 am  
Blogger Bee said...

I agree with herhimnbyn! Oh, to be in Liverpool right now! You give such a passionate plea for Pete -- and this production.

8:49 am  
Blogger Philippa said...

I quite agree with your postscript, Jan. Each to their own. Life would be boring if we all liked the same things and stuck to time-honoured stereotypes. Hats off to Liverpool!

7:48 pm  
Blogger Marianne said...

One day, Jan, I hope to have more time to spend at the theatre. There is so much that is excellent out there and you certainly seem to enjoy it all to the full.

12:32 pm  
Blogger Jon M said...

I'd loved to have seen that. I always enjoy Mr P's work. I loved Brassed off and he was brilliant in Sharpe as Hakeswill.

9:15 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Bee:
Passionate about Postlethwaite!

Philippa:
And I wouldn't be at all surprised if YOURS was a rather fetching cloche...

Marianne:
Hope you do!

Jon:
Get Thee To Liverpool!
You can get tkts on the day if you go early...!

5:47 pm  

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