Paul Scofield, 1922-2008

The image is of Paul Scofield with Vanessa Redgrave in Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman. I didn’t know he did that. A lot of people didn’t know much about him at all.

I missed Scofield by a week in A Man For All Seasons, but saw him in
1964, in Lincoln Center, as King Lear.  The Royal Shakespeare Company
brought the production to New York, but to the wrong building–the New York State Theater. You could not hear most of the performers speaking because the theater is an
opera house, and a bad one. Given that, yes, you could hear Irene Worth…but
Paul Scofield’s projection was astonishing. To this day I remember the voice or
really voices that came out of him–no miking, no shouting, just this incredible
instrument that could have been an operatic voice if he’d added notes to it. And an interpreter as well. At the end he came in carrying Cordelia/Diana Rigg’s
“dead” body and held it out to the onlookers. “Howl!” he snapped. Five
times. It was a spoken but totally imperious demand that carried both royal
authority and a father’s grief and rage. I still get the shivers more than
40 years later. I might just as well say he was the greatest actor I ever
saw. Ever.

May he rest in peace at the end of a life well-lived.


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