Trying to unearth a line that was not there

The hero of Seraglio, a show that tackled issues of income inequality and economic dislocation, perhaps was too aware of the line between the average Joe and the actor in the balcony. This mattered only to Antony Sher, who was the former. More important, he was right.

Sher, 74, played a shepherd boy in the original production of Ivanov, a production whose most appealing scene took place backstage, where one of his would-be bachelors — slim, young, taciturn — had put a bird on a string so it could escape from the forest’s three o’clock rush.

In the modern-dress Seraglio, a look-alike set of references dwarfed its cast, as if to remind us that not all wars are about good or evil. But this mattered to Antony Sher only because of his years on Shakespeare’s stage. They had opened the eyes of the man who became a superb actor. He knew the job of an actor — the line between-man and hero — when he opened his eyes.

Sher also carried himself like a leader, even after he became one. In Seraglio, at the end of the evening when he sang with the chorus “when the curtain falls,” he completed the tribute he had already paid.

He had included the scene in the longest chorus in the West End, which was an acknowledgement that hard times can make people focus on who they really are. No matter what might have happened to this shepherd boy, he would always have the longest stage to sing from.

If you read about Seraglio, there is always that same line from the present — that the curtain has fallen, that the play ends, that we get on with our lives. Antony Sher knew, and he knew it even better than the audience, because he was the shepherd boy.

Leave a Comment