A fascinating insider account of researching, rehearsing and performing the part of King Lear for a major Royal Shakespeare Company production, Antony Sher’s Year of the Mad King won the 2019 Theatre Book Prize awarded by the Society for Theatre Research.
In 1982, rising actor Antony Sher played the Fool to Michael Gambon’s King in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of King Lear. Shortly after, he came back to Stratford to play Richard III – a breakthrough performance that would transform his career, winning him the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Actor. Sher’s record of the making of this historic theatrical event, Year of the King, has become a classic of theatre writing, a unique insight into the creation of a landmark Shakespearean performance.
More than thirty years later, Antony Sher returned to Lear, this time in the title role, for the 2016 RSC production directed by Gregory Doran. Sher’s performance was acclaimed by the Telegraph as ‘a crowning achievement in a major career’, and the show transferred from Stratford to London’s Barbican. Once again, he kept a diary, capturing every step of his personal and creative journey to opening night.
Year of the Mad King: The Lear Diaries is Sher’s account of researching, rehearsing and performing what is arguably Shakespeare’s most challenging role, known as the Everest of Acting. His strikingly honest, illuminating and witty commentary provides an intimate, first-hand look at the development of his Lear and of the production as a whole. Also included is a selection of his paintings and sketches, many reproduced in full colour.
Like his Year of the King and Year of the Fat Knight: The Falstaff Diaries, this book, Year of the Mad King, offers a fascinating perspective on the process of one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of his generation.
‘Wonderfully written and keenly observed’ James Shapiro on Year of the Mad King
‘An inspirational joy… It lays bare the art of the actor in such an accessible, enjoyable way’ Daisy Bowie-Sell, Judge of the 2019 Theatre Book Prize, on Year of the Mad King
‘One of the finest books I have ever read on the process of acting’ Time Out on Year of the King
‘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’ Craig Raine, The Spectator (Books of the Year) on Year of the Fat Knight
‘Riveting… a gripping account of the Herculean effort involved in staging an epic-scale production of Lear‘
— Times Literary Supplement
‘A fascinating insight into the creation of a key production’
— The Times
‘As exhilarating as all Sher’s other rehearsal journals, managing to encompass many of the biting pains of age, which bring him and Lear together, without losing any of the excitement of the creative journey… the sense of privileged intimacy is unique… an affecting, inspiring and wise book’
‘Highly readable, full of fascinating Shakespearean insight and detail, and impressively illustrated with the author’s own paintings and sketches’
— Shakespeare Magazine
‘Incredibly compelling… a fascinating read’
— Drama Magazine
‘A compelling piece of work, and pretty much impossible to leave to one side until you have reached the end of the story and the curtain goes up’
‘A moving account of an intense period in a wonderful actor’s life’
— Times Higher Education
WINNER: Theatre Book Prize