Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Year of the Fat Knight

Last November I reviewed the Blu-ray disc of the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Henry IV, parts 1 & 2, starring Antony Sher as Falstaff. I was so impressed with Sher's performance, and then marvelled at his versatility after I'd read his 1994 book Year of the King, about his experience playing Richard III. Sher writes as well as he acts, and then turns around and does amazing drawings and paintings. An all-rounder!

Now he's written Year of the Fat Knight, another diary about a theatrical experience, this time playing Falstaff with the RSC, and once again it's full of insight, wit, pathos, and all sorts of fascinating stories about theatrical folk. And, again, there are samples of his sketching and painting abilities.

I loved this book. It rings true, partly because Sher isn't afraid to tell stories against himself. In my review of the Blu-ray, I talked about an especially poignant moment in Part 2:
The camera always seems placed just where it needs to be, whether adding sweep to a battle scene, or focussing without moving on the back of Falstaff’s head as he is rejected and humiliated by his once-friend, the new King. When the King passes and Antony Sher slowly turns to the camera, tears streaming down his face, we witness a great theatrical moment. 
While preparing for the role, Sher read Kenneth Tynan's review of Ralph Richardson's famous 1945 performance at the Old Vic.
Tynan's description of the big moment at the end, when Hal rejects Falstaff, was enticing - Richardson kept his back to the audience during Hal's speech, then slowly turned - and it may be worth stealing.
This shows Sher's honesty and his love of tradition. He's a true artist.

Sher's self-portrait as Falstaff

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