the Shakespearean knight widely recognized as the greatest actor of his generation – .

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the Shakespearean knight widely recognized as the greatest actor of his generation – .


Despite a life filled with theatrical acclaim, a knight’s title, and a string of famous friends, Antony Sher struggled with crippling anxiety and an overwhelming sense of inadequacy.

He once wrote that, while being introduced to the Queen as one of Britain’s best classical actors, an inner voice taunted him: ‘I’m just a little gay Yid of the other side of the world. I shouldn’t be here.

Yet such was his talent, he seemed at times to embody the critics’ saying about King Lear: Sher was “too big for the stage.”

Whether he “climbed Everest,” as he described the effort to portray Shakespeare’s foolish monarch, portrayed Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, or while conveying Macbeth’s paranoia and despair, he was a stage presence. almost supernatural: creative, intense and dazzling.

Antony Sher (pictured) as Sir John Falstaff and Alex Hassell as Prince Hal in William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Parts I and II

Sher, whose death from cancer at the age of 72 was announced yesterday, was widely recognized as the greatest actor of his generation, and during his 50-year career he has played almost every greats Shakespearean roles.

Only Hamlet was left out, Sher saying – with characteristic insecurity – that a sense of “self-oppression” kept him from treading the boards as a Dane.

“I thought I was not what Hamlet looked like,” he said. “There was an old idea that he had to be tall and handsome and fair. But that’s nonsense, of course. I missed it and it’s my fault. But otherwise, Shakespeare served me very well.

For Sher, language was a performance art. “For an actor, dialogue is like food,” he wrote. “You hold it in your mouth, you taste it. If it’s a good dialogue, the taste will be distinctive.

“If it’s a dialogue from Shakespeare, the taste will be Michelin-starred. “

Still, the banquet of his life was not without bitter notes: at times, Sher was treated for depression as well as cocaine addiction, triggered by his insecurities. “I always felt like an intruder,” he said.

He had a long-standing and viciously jealous feud with actor Simon Callow, whom he sometimes felt like he was being played in roles he deserved.

“I couldn’t bear to be in the same room with him,” said Sher, who was knighted in 2000.

Her jealousy of Callow ‘might explode on the Richter scale… I will never forget the terrible feelings that consumed me every time I saw her name. Jealousy is an exhausting and insatiable feeling, both tiny and huge, somewhere between an itch and a fever.

“A kind of hunger, a kind of despair. A fear, a terror, a murder.

The animosity of the actors is finally defused thanks to a four-hour lunch at Caprice.

Although he spent much of his professional life at the peak of his profession, Sher never gave up his status as an outsider.

Actor Sir Antony Sher (right) with Greg Doran outside Islington Town Hall, north London, Wednesday 21 December 2005, after their civil partnership ceremony

Born in a bourgeois suburb of Cape Town in 1949, young Anthony was obsessed with drama. He listened again and again to capture the cadences of an LP by Laurence Olivier playing Othello.

Gay, Jewish and artistic, he did not fit well with the macho and sports mad culture of apartheid South Africa.

In 1968, he left for England, hoping to enter a drama school and emulate his theater heroes Olivier, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson.

But Rada flatly rejected it, Sher later recalling that the venerable drama school sent him a letter that said, “Not only did you fail this audition, we strongly urge you to seek another career. “

He enrolled in the less prestigious Webber-Douglas Academy, and hid his South African origin, his Jewishness and his sexuality. “I was in so many closets,” he said later.

He met the crowd at the Everyman Theater in Liverpool, including young actors Julie Walters and Pete Postlethwaite, who have become lifelong friends.

The 1974 play by Willy Russell, John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert, which was performed at the Everyman Theater in Liverpool (Sher at far right as drummer Ringo)

The 1974 play by Willy Russell, John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert, which was performed at the Everyman Theater in Liverpool (Sher at far right as drummer Ringo)

His hiatus came in Malcolm Bradbury’s The History Man, a BBC adaptation for which he was nominated for the Bafta.

The RSC then took him over and in 1983 chose him to play Richard III in an acclaimed production in which Sher played the Hunchback King on crutches.

The play caused a stir and was followed by a superb West End performance of the Torch Song Trilogy, in which he played a New York gay drag artist.

In 1987, while playing Shylock, he fell in love with his colleague Greg Doran, now artistic director of the RSC.

They became Theatreland’s main “power couple”, with Doran directing Sher in a series of standout productions, including King Lear in 2016. They formed a civil partnership in 2005.

Sher has also made television and film appearances, most notably as Disraeli in the 1997 film Mrs. Brown. He was also at Yanks and, to change from his usual fare, Superman II.

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