Sir Antony Sher



  • (1949 - ) British actor, best known for his daring interpretations of Shakespeare. A native South African, Sher travelled to Britain in the late 1960s to train as an actor. He made his West End debut (1975) in the musical John, Paul, George, Ringo...and Bert and that same year gave a much-praised performance as Khlestakov in Gogol'sThe Government Inspector. In 1982 he became an associate memberof the RSC and played his first major Shakespearean role, that ofthe Fool in King Lear. He also became known to a wider publicas the devious sociology lecturer Howard Kirk in television's TheHistory Man.

    Charismatic but dangerously manipulative characters have sincebecome a speciality for Sher, the best known being his startling RichardIII (1884 - 85). Against the modern trend, Sher chose toemphasize the character's physical deformity, playing him as a grotesquespider-like creature on crutches. The result was hailed as the strongestinterpretation since Olivier's 40 years earlier. Sher went on to givesimilarly bold readings of Shylock and Malvolio (both 1987). His non-Shakespeareanroles have included the drag queen Arnold in Torch Song Trilogy(1985), an Auschwitz survivor turned ruthless slum landlord in PeterFlannery's Singer (1987), the title character in Brecht's TheResistible Rise of Arturo Ui (1991), and the artist Stanley Spencerin Stanley (1996). In 1995 he returned to South Africa in aproduction of Titus Andronicus directed by his partner, GregoryDoran. Sher himself directed Fraser Grace's play Breakfast withMugabe in 2006.

    Sher is also a talented writer and illustrator; his booksinclude The Year of the King (1986), about his preparationsfor the role of Richard III, and several novels. In 2003 he wroteand starred in I.D., a play about the assassination of HenrikVerwoerd, the architect of apartheid. This was followed by Giant (2007),a play about Michelangelo, Leonardo, and their young apprentice. Sher hascontinued to appear regularly on the British stage, notably as Iago in the RSC's Othello (2003), in the title role of Kean (2007), andas Dr Stockmann in Ibsen's An Enemy of the People (2010).