'Antony Sher's insider journal is a brilliant exploded view of a great actor at work – modest and gifted, self-centred and selfless – a genius capable of transporting us backstage' Craig Raine, The Spectator (Books of the Year)
Year of the Fat Knight is Antony Sher's account – splendidly supplemented by his own paintings and sketches – of researching, rehearsing and performing one of Shakespeare's best-known and most popular characters, Sir John Falstaff, in the Royal Shakespeare Company's 2014 production of both parts of Henry IV, directed by Gregory Doran.
Both the production and Sher's Falstaff were acclaimed by critics and audiences – with Sher winning the Critics' Circle Award for Best Shakespearean Performance – and the shows transferred from Stratford to London, and then to New York, where Charles Isherwood in the New York Times described Sher's Falstaff as 'one of the greatest performances I've ever seen'.
This fascinating book tells us how Sher had initial doubts about playing the part at all, how he sought to reconcile Falstaff's obesity, drunkenness, cowardice and charm, how he wrestled with the fat suit needed to bulk him up, and how he explored the complexities and contradictions of this comic yet often dangerous personality. On the way, he paints a uniquely close-up portrait of the RSC at work.
Year of the Fat Knight is a terrific read, rich in humour and with a built-in tension as opening night draws relentlessly nearer. It also stands as a celebration of the craft of character acting. It ranks alongside Year of the King – Sher's seminal account of playing Richard III – as a consummate depiction of the creation of a giant Shakespearean role.
'Antony Sher’s insider journal is a brilliant exploded view of a great actor at work — modest and gifted, self-centred and selfless — a genius capable of transporting us backstage'
- Craig Raine Spectator (Books of the Year)
‘A fascinating book, whether you love Shakespeare, whether you love theatre, even if you don’t... unfailingly honest... a brilliant portrayal of a character actor’
- Claudia Winkelman BBC Radio 2 Arts Show
'A brilliantly full-bodied account that mixes the practicalities of a performance with artistic ambitions. You learn as much about Sher himself as you do about Falstaff... far more instructive about acting than any number of how-to guides'
'A vivid account... Sher has an artist's eye... filled with etacy'
- The Times
'Far from simply a primer on the art of acting... [Sher's] tone is relaxed, intimate, even confidential, open about his personal foibles and relationships... a book about life as well as about acting'
- The Spectator
'One of the most compelling non-fiction books I've read in a long time... chatty, frank, funny and enlightening... anyone wanting to know exactly how a show is created from beginning to end will find it all here... I enjoyed Sher's earlier book, Year of the King, about his journey to create Richard III, but this is even better'
- The Stage