A Selection of British Reviews

The theatrical scenes have settled into robustly detailed Dickensian comedy, with Gerald Jones, Edward Petherbridge and Wynne Clark brilliantly emerging from the general ensemble [of Trelawny of the ‘Wells’]. The Times, 18 November 1965

John Stride and Edward Petherbridge play them [Rosencrantz and Guildenstern] with less Laurel-and-Hardy knockabout than their Edinburgh equivalents, but far more hauntingly. Pethebrridge catches perfectly the sort of student who seems ludicrously earnest until you realize that he’s genuinely agonised by ideas. Ronald Bryden, Observer, 16 April 1967

But the finest of all, I’d say, is Edward Petherbridge’s Voltore, a hunched, sunken-eyed vulture whose hands claw at those near him with the sudden, frightening deliberation of Captain Hook’s gestures of friendship. At his first entry, he hops, spread-eagled and voracious, to balance on the side of Volpone’s bed. When finally discomfited by Mosca, he sweeps out into the dark like a great, rustling bomber taking off. It’s impossible to tell where the human character ends and the bird begins, and the proud, hooded eyes tell that both natures are tragic. One had wondered whether his moody Guildenstern in Tom Stoppard’s comedy was a flash in the pan. This performance proves that the National has a new gilt-edged asset. He has the advantage, too, of speaking Jonson’s verse so as to verify T.S. Eliot’s derivation of it from Marlowe’s mighty line. Ronald Bryden, Observer, 21 January 1968

Mr Petherbridge’s brilliant production [of Knots] is a company showcase packed with surprises; we learn that he himself is a virtuoso mime. Robert Cushman, Observer, 16 September 1973

Romance is entrusted almost entirely to Prospero, played by Edward Petherbridge with a fine sense of the music and poetry of the part, and spoken with such beauty as one doesn’t often hear B. A. Young, Financial Times, 7 May 1973

The romantic sub-plot of Faulkland and Julia is superbly and originally handled … Edward Petherbridge … presenting Faulkland as a sallow, insecure, convincingly lovelorn Scot. Michael Coveney, Financial Times, 14 April 1983

In the case of Edward Petherbridge as the loyal Charles Marsden, a grown-up mother’s boy who adores Nina, the style, which appears at first to cast him as our narrative guide, unravels to suit him utterly. The studied artifice of considered wisdom is both his metier and his doom. The elegant cadaverousness of this portrait will surely mark it as one of Mr Petherbridge’s very finest. Michael Coveney, Financial Times, 9 April 1984

The best acting comes from Edward Petherbridge, who turns Sir Fretful Plagiary into an acid vignette of outraged vanity. John Peter, Sunday Times, 15 September 1985

Sheila Hancock and Edward Petherbridge give consummate performances in these difficult roles – difficult because, on the face of it, Ranyevskaya might seem simply hysterical and Gayev merely eccentric, and it takes hard work and artistic humility to unfold their sad and unglamorous secrets. This is what distinguishes really fine acting from merely star acting. John Peter, Sunday Times, 15 December 1985

As delivered by Edward Petherbridge’s Alceste … the text dances as irresistibly as ever, combining the maximum idiomatic freedom with the severest metrical precision, and yielding strings of marvellous new jokes unknown to Moliere but perfectly in key with his comedy. Irving Wardle, The Times, 22 March 1989

Edward Petherbridge’s Alceste is based on the shrewd perception that Alceste is both self-pitying and vain: a lethal combination. He’s a professional outcast who dreads nothing more than recognition or acceptance; and, like all self-absorbed people, he is deeply impressed with himself. Petherbridge also knows that Alceste is quite a considerable bore whose egotism is a function of his immaturity. Out of these unprepossessing qualities he has forged a tough, scintillating performance, icy but beguiling: audiences up and down the country should flock to see it. John Peter, Sunday Times, 26 March 1989

Edward Petherbridge, marvellously playing Dorn as a quietly elegant spectator. Financial Times, 9 July 1994

With Edward Petherbridge bringing a flummoxed vulnerability to the most underwritten of all Shakespeare’s title-characters [Cymbeline], this is an invigorating reclamation of a tricky play. Benedict Nightingale, The Times, 22 January 1998

Edward Petherbridge, pale, bony and tousled, plays the role [of Krapp] with a mixture of resignation, exasperation and defiance. He looks battered and appalled. If time were something you could see, you would think he had seen it and never wanted to see it again. So that was life, then? A trim reckoning. This is a magnificent performance, haunting, sad, and bracing when you least expect it. John Peter, Sunday Times, 15 March 1998

Edward Petherbridge plays Anthony Blunt as a fallen angel who knows that he has even further to fall. His scene with the Queen (Bridget Forsyth) is one of the subtlest pieces of contemporary theatre I know: both exquisite social comedy and psychological mercy killing. John Peter, Sunday Times, 23 April 2000

From the first moment he glided on to stage on a rope and had a conversation with his agent about the wisdom of taking the West End role of Archer’s barrister Sir James Barrington QC Petherbridge held the crowd in the palm of his hand with a series of witty ruminations that may or may not have anything to do with the former Tory peer. … Petherbridge was innovative, clever, cultured and at times deeply sentimental. … Without any shadow of doubt it is a truly cultured and classy production. … And if Archer penned a book half as good as Petherbridge’s play he really would be a noble lord. Yorkshire Post, March 2001

From the moment of their wonderful entrance on stage [Edward Petherbridge and Paul Hunter] are laugh-out-loud funny. Petherbridge really is fantastic and is in total control of the audience. Edward Lukes, The London Magazine, 11 June 2010

A genius turn from Edward Petherbridge as the crumpled, ageing Shakespearean luvvie whose every gesture, word or weary sigh was pure comedic gold. Roisin Gadelrab, West End Extra / Islington Tribune, 17 June 2010

As [Petherbridge] approaches his 80th birthday, he has acquired a tremendous sense of majesty that makes him a magnetic stage presence: I sincerely hope he may yet get to play Lear and deliver the lines that remain so stubbornly in his head. In the meantime, this is a great showcase for these talents and a fascinating insight, too, into the mind of a great, all too often under-appreciated, actor who clearly refuses to go gently into that good night. Tim Walker, Telegraph, 17 September 2014

It is though Mr. Petherbridge who holds the play and his life up for scrutiny, a herculean moment on stage as all is laid bare but with grace, humility and the right amount of laughter in which to show that the Human mind may be fragile, might be imperfect and capable of being bruised and haunted but like Lear himself, capable of reaching out through the darkness and creating something stunning and noble. Ian D. Hall, Liverpool Sound and Vision, 22 October 2014

A Selection of New York Reviews

Everyone whisks through his or her act to the remarkable accompaniment of Dr Laing’s verbal firecrackers, while the director, Mr Petherbridge, never for a moment lets the show down, and knows the precise moment when to stop. This is an unusually gifted band of actors. Clive Barnes, New York Times, 1 February 1974

Edward Petherbridge’s heartbroken, quicksilver fool – abruptly turning his face into a mournful clown’s mask and dancing like an unstrung puppet for his master is the Fool forever; the part IS permanently his. New Yorker, 18 February 1974

Representing the other side of humanity is Edward Petherbridge as Newman Noggs, the uncle’s clerk, a former gentleman who has fallen on hard times, an eminently decent soul who, though sometimes dimmed by alcohol, never diminishes in gallantry. More than anyone, Newman manipulates the happy ending. Moving at sharp angles, shadow boxing his frustration, cracking his knuckles in despair at his master’s vileness, Mr Petherbridge delivers the play’s most indelibly Dickensian performance. Mel Gussow, New York Times, 6 July 1980

As the tipsy clerk Newman Noggs, a fallen gentleman afraid of his own every move, Edward Petherbridge elevates a comic type with rending poetry. Frank Rich, New York Times, 5 Oct 1981

I know that when ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ came here, a great many of us were mightily taken with one Edward Petherbridge, who played the mostly silent, always unobtrusive Newman Noggs, sitting at a dusty desk and watching the wicked world go by. It was the actor’s business to obliterate himself and at the same time make us remember him. Worked, as they say, like a charm. Is he an ‘important’ actor in England now, or an important one? I imagine he’s important in the non-Irving sense. If he isn’t, they’re crazy over there. Walter Kerr, New York Times, 26 June 1983

Marsden emerges here as a witty, bitchy chorus – a detached Jamesian observer who is always the first to spot everyone’s hypocrisies, including his own. With his prissy whine, fragile bearing and gloomy, shadowy eyes, Mr Petherbridge always looks like the ‘old maid’ he’s claimed to be; he twists like a weathervane when buffeted by others’ passions and forever seems to be fastidiously picking at stray lint. But whether he’s passing judgment on fellow characters or the adolescent materialism of the Jazz Age, his asides are undiluted acid – and hilariously expressive of a fatalistic vision that O’Neill put to loftier uses elsewhere in his career. Mr Petherbridge, last seen as Newman Noggs in ‘Nicholas Nickleby,’ is simply priceless in this role’ by the time he reaches his delicate drunk scene, the audience is eating up his every word. Frank Rich, New York Times, 22 February 1985

Bitching genteelly about his rivals, flouncing through life with wet rancor, Charlie is the play’s most modern character. And Petherbridge’s deftly broad performance connects so directly with a 1985 audience that the other men’s declarations of love sound like letters from high camp. His presence amounts to a deconstruction of the text, and a radical revitalizing of it. Transformed, the play lives. Richard Corliss, TIME, 4 March, 1985

Mr Petherbridge, formerly outstanding in the stage productions of ‘Nicholas Nickleby and ‘Strange Interlude’, not only looks the part but also manages to convey the darker tones beneath the surface frivolity of the character as well. … Mr Petherbridge’s performance, topped off with a smashing wardrobe of tweed suits, colorful vests and exquisite formal wear, provides a consistently fascinating turn. John. J. O’Connor, New York Times, 2 October 1987

Yes, the extraordinary Edward Petherbridge is every wiry inch the self-absorbed protagonist of ‘Krapp’s Last Tape,’ Samuel Beckett’s one-man play, with a machine as co-star. Beckett wrote the play – like Ionesco’s ‘Chairs,’ a landmark of existential drama – 40 years ago … in the hands of the right actor, it remains a striking piece of showmanship. Mr. Petherbridge, who as the pure-hearted Newman Noggs gave the original Royal Shakespeare Company production of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ its humane core, triumphantly proves the point. His version of ‘Krapp’s,’ which opened on Wednesday night at the Majestic Theater of the Brooklyn Academy of Music as one of five Royal Shakespeare offerings there this month, is appropriately weird, frequently funny and, above all, meticulously staged. Here is an actor of poise made for small gestures, who can make the turning of a page seem an act of consequence, who offers the idea in two or three small, shambling steps that maybe this is a tired old man who sits around listening to a tape recorder a lot because his feet are killing him. … The role calls for a tragic clown; just as Krapp is addicted to bananas, it’s not in his nature to avoid slipping on the peel he tosses to the floor. And Mr. Petherbridge, with the defeated air of a chagrined vaudevillian, offers such a portrait. Employing a light Irish accent, he invests Krapp with an affecting dignity. He is both wise man and fool, an old gent trapped, like the rest of us, in his own story. Peter Marks, The New York Times, 29 May 1998

Performed with ardent meticulousness by Edward Petherbridge, Krapp bends his ear toward his worn-down reel-to-reel with both wariness and wonder. …. His quiet comfort on stage, his Keaton-like bumbling, makes the contrast between arrogant youth and lonesome old age feel all the more wasted and sad. Petherbridge’s measured vacancy leaves room for the play’s less palpable drama: the projections we provide to fill in the laconic text. Krapp’s remains one of Beckett’s most audacious plays, eking action out of a wheezy, whinging tape and even, at times, an empty stage. When Petherbridge exits for a bit of booze, the stage remains filled with tension between presence and absence that is absolutely compelling in its plumbless promise. Alisa Solomon, The Village Voice, 9 June 1998

Slender and pale with a sharp, clean profile, Petherbridge is already slightly stylized, one of those streamlined models, like Fred Astaire, who make ordinary mortals look slightly lumpish. His acting has a similar clean and simple grace – like a dancer, he has ‘line.’ Petherbridge’s austerity isn’t cold; it focuses and displays a deep warmth. Eccentricity has a home here, as well as humor and compassion, and everyday human appetites. … Like the playwright, this actor is a poet of stillness. Lloyd Rose, Washington Post, 19 June 1998