Year: 2001

Title of the play: Defending Jeffrey

Author: Edward Petherbridge

Director: Edward Petherbridge

Others in the Cast: None


Theatre and location: West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

Other productions of the same play: 

Plot summary:

Peth’s role: Himself


The time on stage with Archer was obviously a difficult and unsettling period for Petherbridge. This was new to an old hand who last appeared in Single Spies and he has put it to good use with a tremendous show at the same venue. At times, certainly near the beginning, Defending Jeffrey was a little hard to follow. But without any shadow of doubt it is a truly cultured and classy production. Lord Archer once said while they worked together that Petherbridge should be knighted. And if Archer penned a book half as good as Petherbridge’s play he really would be a noble lord. - Yorkshire Post, March 2001

Petherbridge uses his appearance as Sir James Barrington QC in the Jeffrey Archer play The Accused as a springboard. He explains at the beginning of the play that Archer, a "self confessed amateur" asked for tips and advice about the acting profession. Lord Archer's request obviously sowed several seeds in the stage veteran's active mind, resulting in a crash course in acting. Except that Petherbridge is fully aware that acting is not the sole domain of Equity card holders. - Dave Windass, What's on Stage


What it (Defending Jeffrey) does offer is an intriguing mix of mock-trial (Petherbridge up on the charge of appearing in The Accused), reminiscence, and a lecture-demo of some "Crash Tips for Jeffrey" on the art of performance. Though in need of more development and less fluttery delivery, the piece justifies its strange existence, moving in clever lateral lunges as it muses on the paradox of the law and the theatre, two professions supposedly dedicated to "getting at the truth", but all too inclined to degenerate into a game played by hirelings. - Paul Taylor, The Independent, 6 April 2001


Extract from an interview in The Independent - Did he like Archer? Petherbridge again doesn't answer directly, but says dryly: "If one put everyone through a screening process for their morals or personality, one would be working with very many fewer people, I can assure you. My biggest qualm was working with someone who was an amateur. Of course an awful lot of actors with Equity cards can't act, anyway. God I'm burning so many boats now." He dissolves into giggles like a naughty schoolboy. - Veronica Lee, The Independent, 1 April 2001

After this strange exercise in watching paint dry, he re-emerges dressed as Pierrot and, in a pool of ravishing blue light, gives a heart-meltingly beautiful account of the prison soliloquy from Richard II, mixed with some oblique, Oedipal stuff about never being able to communicate properly with his father. - The Guardian


Production details:

Related links

Interview with Peth in Bradford

Nearly half a century ago Edward Petherbridge won a scholarship worth two guineas to study drama at the Bradford Civic's Green Room. It was his springboard to a long and distinguished career on stage and screen. Today the National Theatre actor is back at the theatre, now called the Priestley Centre, to tread the boards for a Bradford audience once again. "I'm coming back to repay that two guineas," he smiled. ...

Edward will perform his one-man play Defending Jeffrey..? which is loosely based on disgraced MP Jeffrey Archer's trial, at the Priestley on Friday, November 23. The play, aimed at raising funds for the Priestley - which is trying to secure its long-term future - will be filmed by the British Theatre Museum. - Telegraph & Argus 14 Nov 2001.



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