Thirty years ago a promising young actor published his account of preparing for and playing the role of Richard III. Antony Sher’s Year of the King has since become a classic of theatre literature.
In 2014, Sher, now in his sixties, was cast as Falstaff in Gregory Doran’s Royal Shakespeare Company production of the two parts of Henry IV. Both the production and Sher’s Falstaff were acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, with Sher winning the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Shakespearean Performance.
Year of the Fat Knight is Antony Sher’s account – splendidly supplemented by his own paintings and sketches – of researching, rehearsing and performing one of Shakespeare’s best-known and most popular characters. He tells us how he had doubts about playing the part at all, how he sought to reconcile Falstaff’s obesity, drunkenness, cowardice and charm, how he wrestled with the fat suit needed to bulk him up, and how he explored the complexities and contradictions of this comic yet often dangerous personality. On the way, Sher paints a uniquely close-up portrait of the RSC at work.
Year of the Fat Knight is a terrific read, rich in humour and with a built-in tension as opening night draws relentlessly nearer. It also stands as a celebration of the craft of character acting. All in all, it is destined to rank with Year of the King as one of the most enduring accounts of the creation of a giant Shakespearean role.
Praise for Year of the King:
‘This is a most wonderfully authentic account of the experience of creating a performance’ Sunday Times
‘The most exciting actor of his generation and an eloquent writer on the side’ Observer
Praise for Sher’s Falstaff:
‘A magnificent, magnetic performance… Sher plays down the fatness to emphasise the knight’s upper-class origins. But, just as you start to warm to this Falstaff, you are reminded of his rapacity’ Guardian
‘It is Sher’s irrepressible Falstaff that will linger in the memory – a lord of misrule who’s absurd, delightful and in the end deeply sad’
‘Antony Sher’s insider journal is a brilliant exploded view of a great actor at work — modest and gifted, self-centred and selfless — a genius capable of transporting us backstage’
— Spectator (Books of the Year)
‘A fascinating book, whether you love Shakespeare, whether you love theatre, even if you don’t… unfailingly honest… a brilliant portrayal of a character actor’
— BBC Radio 2 Arts Show
‘A brilliantly full-bodied account that mixes the practicalities of a performance with artistic ambitions. You learn as much about Sher himself as you do about Falstaff… far more instructive about acting than any number of how-to guides’
‘A vivid account… Sher has an artist’s eye… filled with ecstacy’
— The Times
‘An excellent account… intimate and conversational in tone, and illuminates both the personal and collective processes of bringing to life a huge character and production’
— Times Literary Supplement
‘Far from simply a primer on the art of acting… [Sher’s] tone is relaxed, intimate, even confidential, open about his personal foibles and relationships… a book about life as well as about acting’
— The Spectator
‘One of the most compelling non-fiction books I’ve read in a long time… chatty, frank, funny and enlightening… anyone wanting to know exactly how a show is created from beginning to end will find it all here… I enjoyed Sher’s earlier book, Year of the King, about his journey to create Richard III, but this is even better’
— The Stage