This is the autobiography of actor, author and artist Anthony Sher. It offers an insight into his first 50 years. Starting with his time in the sinister paradise of white South Africa, we follow Sher through his time as a rifleman during conscription in Namibia, his feelings of being an outsider and his escape to London. Small, weedy, Jewish and conscious of his homosexuality Anthony found a refuge in art and later theatre. Sher was turned down by RADA and Central but still went on to create a series of triumphs on stage, including "Richard III" and "Macbeth", as well as write novels and a theatre-journal full of his own illustrations. Sher reveals his personal experiences of theatre figures, such as Olivier, Stoppard and Mike Leigh, and the time when his cocaine habit threatened his survival. This is a personal odyssey through the approvals and dismissals, awards and addictions, doubts and dreams which go to make up Anthony Sher's life so far.
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The title of Antony Sher's compelling autobiography, Beside Myself, refers to his sense of connection with twins, and a notion of alternative selves. This otherness serves him not only as one of Britain's most versatile and captivating stage actors, but also as novelist (four very readable novels, including Middlepost and The Indoor Boy), and visual artist. And to add to the ambiguity, Sher is not even strictly British, being South African of birth. One can begin perhaps to see the qualities that led to him being knighted in 2000, but perhaps also that drove him to a cocaine dependency that took courage, therapy and personal strength to relinquish. While Being Myself recycles material from Sher's two theatrical memoirs, Year of the King and Woza Shakespeare!, the most substantial interest is his relationship with his family, and life growing up in Cape Town. A mummy's boy, he had her love, but craved his father's, a fearsome yet sensitive, hard-drinking man who fell asleep during his son's performances. Sher left Cape Town at 19 for a London drama school, and went on to forge a career of marathon theatre roles, built on brilliantly shrewd characterisations, from Hitler to Stanley Spencer, making him perhaps the second-most-famous Jewish-South African actor after Solly Cohen--or Sid James, as he became better known. He allows a glimpse into the rehearsal rooms, and Green Rooms, of the best theatre directors of his generation, including Adrian Noble, Trevor Nunn, Mike Leigh and Steven Berkoff, and considers the low points as well as the many curtain calls. By his own confession fascinated with the persecuted who become the persecutors, at 50 Antony Sher seems keen to make peace with both emotional hemispheres of that dynamic within himself. A similar process in the other lead character, South Africa itself, which matures politically over a similar period, allows Sher to reconcile himself to his own past, making this a bravely unsentimental, honest confessional that speaks as eloquently of the man as the artist.-- David VincentReview:
Although currently embargoed, one thing is reasonably certain about this autobiography by one of our most respected actors, the recently-knighted Sir Antony Sher. It will be all his own work, having already displayed his writing ability by carving out a successful secondary career as a novelist in addition to his exertions as a thespian. His autobiography seems likely to cover all the aspects of the South African-born Sher's interesting life, including his accomplishments as a painter and his once voracious but now conquered cocaine habit as well as his acting work and the people with whom he has worked, including Larry Olivier, Tom Stoppard, Mike Leigh, et al. Perhaps most importantly, however, he is expected to detail the painfully slow process by which he came to acknowledge, accept and finally feel comfortable in his homosexuality - including the odd marriage undertaken in an attempt to be "normal", but doomed to failure.
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