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The Anton Lesser Junkie Quick Fix Page

By no means complete Theatre Credits

Richard of Gloucester in Henry VI (1977)

*Lesser began his Plantagenet existence as Richard of Gloucester in Terry Hands' staging of the Henry VI trilogy in 1977. Ten years later, he finally got the crown, in the RSC's The Plantagenets (Henry VI/Richard III) in 1988-89. See also The Critics Rave ... And the unpublished critics: Christiane says "since I first saw him in 1977 in Stratford in Henry VI Part III I've rated him as my favourite actor. Saw him in Henry VI Parts II and III a little later in London and the last time I saw him was in Hamlet (twice)."
Michael in The Sons of Light, The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon (from 2 November 1977) and Donmar Warehouse, London (from 3 May 1978): The Times 10 November 1977; Daily Telegraph 10 November 1977; Financial Times 10 November 1977; Guardian 11 November 1977; Sunday Times 11 November 1977; Sunday Telegraph 13 November 1977.

Allan in The Dance of Death, The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon (from 24 January 1978) and Donmar Warehouse, London (from 9 April 1978)

Constantin in The Seagull, Royal Court Theatre (April 1981)

 
Darkie in The Fool, June-Sept 1981

Romeo in Romeo and Juliet (1980-81): Plays and Players December 1981

 
Hamlet (1982)
 
*Hamlet opened on August 17, 1982 at the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden and was then transferred to the much larger Piccadilly Theatre on September 22, 1982 where it continued to play for ten more weeks. Anton Lesser played the title role under the direction of Jonathan Miller, with whom he had worked twice earlier in his career in the BBC Shakespeare series (see the TV section). This was Lesser's second Hamlet, but only if you count playing Hamlet once at Moseley Grammar School in Birmingham when he was sixteen. (Alan Benson was in his form, and says he was brilliant.) And you can read the rest of the thing in Mary Maher, Modern Hamlets and Their Soliloquies, University of Iowa Press, 1992: 121-133 (improve your minds, children; improve your minds).
 
Harry in Kissing God (Dec 1984): Plays and Players February 1985: 32-33
 
Troilus in Troilus and Cressida (1985-6)
* read the reviews, courtesy of Gilda's Alan Rickman site:
Jewish Chronicle, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Mail on Sunday, The Listener, New Statesman, The Observer and others

 

Carlos Montezuma in Melons (RSC, Barbican Pit) Plays and Players February 1986: 26.

Bill Howell in Principia Scriptoriae (1986): Plays & Players December 1986: 24.

 
Feste in Twelfth Night (Riverside Studios) (1988): Plays & Players February 1988: 26-27.
 
Richard III in The Plantagenets (1988-89; see above):
*You can read Lesser's analysis of Richard in Russell Jackson and Robert Smallwood's Players of Shakespeare 3, Cambridge University Press, 1993: 140-160. See also Plays and Players October 1988: 8-11. And finally, there's Scott Colley, Richard's Himself Again: A Stage History of Richard III, Greenwood Press. Westport, Conn. 1992. Colley has nothing but good to say about Lesser's Richard, which, considering he pans Marius Goring, Alan Bates, Norman Rodway, and Ian Richardson, is not surprising. So we can forgive him the 'Lesser and Greater' crack, I suppose. Production got rave reviews and had top cast: Penny Downie, Ralph Fiennes and Oliver Cotton, among others.
 
Joe Taylor in Some Americans Abroad (1989): Plays & Players September 1989: 30-31. See also The Critics Rave ...

Edwin Forrest in Two Shakespearian Actors (1990): Plays & Players November 1990: 18.

Bolingbroke in Richard II (1990-1): Plays & Players December 1990: 35. See also The Critics Rave ...

Petruccio in The Taming of the Shrew (1992): Theatre Record 25 March - 7 April 1992: 418-422. See also The Critics Rave ...
 
Ford in the Merry Wives of Windsor (1992): Plays & Players October 1992: 100.

Stanley in The Birthday Party (1994): Theatre Record 12-25 March 1994: 308-314. See also The Critics Rave ...

 
Rover in Wild Oats (1995): Theatre Record 27 August - 9 September 1995: 1226-1230; Plays & Players October 1995: 15. See also The Critics Rave ...
 
Serge in Art (11 March 1997 - 12 July 1997, Wyndham Theatre): Plays & Players May 1997: 29.
*read the London Theatre On-Line site reviews
 
William in Mutabilitie (November 1997): Theatre Record 19 November - 2 December 1997: 1511-1516.
*which Sheridan Morley hated (quel surprise)
*as did Terri Paddock
*but Darren Dalgleish was a tad more balanced
 
Elyot in Private Lives (May 1999, Lyttleton Theatre)
 
*Newsy stuff from What's On Stage
*Michael Billington, The Guardian, Saturday May 15, 1999 : 'Sex and savagery'
*Susannah Clapp, The Observer, Sunday May 16, 1999: 'Noël's grouse party'
*Terri Paddock strikes again, in What's On Stage
*And Darren Dalgleish is once again a tad more balanced ... 
*Sheridan Morley actually enjoyed it a lot!
*The Telegraph says: "The decidedly equine Juliet Stevenson and the faintly ferrety Anton Lesser might seem perverse casting as glamorous Amanda and Elyot in Coward's finest play. In fact, the pair strike real sparks off each other, doing full justice to both the comedy and the pain of this romantic tale about a couple who can't live together and can't live apart. Philip Franks's production (also starring Dominic Rowan ...) is refreshingly free of Coward clichés, and often blissfully funny, never more so than in the brilliantly choreographed second-act fight." 
*Reviews from Albemarle of London's site
*And the Ham & High Network
*And The Stage
*And TheatreWorld Internet Magazine
*And This is London
 
The (unpublished) critics rave:
 
Alison and Anita went on Monday 15 June, and sat in the stalls: "I did indeed look up the Great Man's nose, and very splendid it was too. In Act 2 we had the pleasure of seeing him in a white shirt being drenched by a soda siphon ... And all from the distance of about 10 feet."
 
Christiane went in early September and had to sit in the thirteenth row, but had her opera glasses at the ready: "I found him neither tubby nor short or mousey, just wonderful and - as a line in the play puts it - rather ravishing in his little dressing gown ... I think what put off some of those critics, was that the flippancy so typical of Coward came across as a more modern and slightly anarchic sense of humour, rather than as sophisticated and blasé. Anton Lesser isn't one for being blasé, I think. Nor effeminate, which one also might have expected in a role Noel Coward wrote for himself. He's good at being ironic, you know how endearing he can be when he's nasty. Why else would I have liked him so much in Henry VI Part III?"

Dr Faustus (2001), Rose Theatre. This was a staged reading of a blend of the A and B texts to raise money for digging up/preserving what's left of the Rose Theatre. It had a four-day run and Ali, Ellie and self sat in the front row, and had a wonderful time. Gnfnkk.

Leo in The Lucky Ones (April-May 2002, Hampstead Theatre)

A new play by Charlotte Eilenberg: "Sweeping across decades and four generations, this evocative and searching new play looks at how the hunger for place and belonging exerts a powerful influence on two exiled families."

The unpublished critics have yet to see this production, but published ones seem to be full of admiration for the Great Man's performance.
*Michael Billington, The Guardian, Tuesday 23 April 2002, "a rivetting performance by Anton Lesser.... Lesser's hypnotic display of unpredictability".
*Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard, Tuesday 23 April 2002, "Anton Lesser, seething with old resentments and new rage, galvanise[s] the stage with passion."
*Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph, 27 April 2002, "Anton Lesser gives a great performance as the most damaged of "the lucky ones"."
*Kate Kellaway, The Observer, 28 April 2002, "Leo (Anton Lesser), compelling, impulsive, dapper."
*Benedict Nightingale, The Times, Wed 24 April 2002.
*Peter Hepple, The Stage, April 2002
*Philip Fisher, Whatsonstage.com, April 2002

Iachimo in Cymbeline in the RSC 2003 season! This production runs at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon from 30 July - 7 November 2003. It is directed by Dominic Cooke and stars Emma Fielding and Daniel Evans.

*Benedict Nightingale, The Times, 8 August 2003, "Anton Lesser ... brings a chilly arrogance to Iachimo, here the natural leader of Rome's white-suited Dolce Vita set."
*Alastair Macauley, Financial Times, 8 August 2003, "Best of all is Anton Lesser's Iachimo - an oxymoron of world-weary despair and inventive glee, both lethal and plaintive in his unswerving focus on other characters, a traitor who shows both the pathos of evil and its wit."
* Michael Billington, The Guardian, 8 August 2003, "Anton Lesser's Iachimo is so wickedly lascivious that he can't resist crawling all over the sleeping Imogen in a manner that exceeds the call of duty."
*Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph, 8 August 2003, "Anton Lesser is wonderfully comical as Iachimo, a malevolent gnome of a man who puts one in mind of Robin Cook."

Brutus in Julius Caesar at the Barbican Theatre 14 April - 14 May 2005. It is directed by Deborah Warner and stars Ralph Fiennes as Mark Antony, Simon Russell Beale as Cassius, and John Shrapnel as Caesar. Anton replaces Paul Rhys who had to withdraw because of illness.
*Benedict Nightingale, The Times, 21 April 2005, "It’s a riveting performance, as is Lesser’s Brutus, a man who unwillingly decides he must kill someone he genuinely loves and remains desperate to maintain his purity of vision and motive despite co-conspirators for whom he feels aversion."
*Alastair Macauley, Financial Times, 21 April 2005, "Lesser's Brutus is an intellectual, but never noble - the adjective most applied by other characters to him - and he overdoes his trick of rapid vocal vibrato. Julius Caesar works throughout only if it becomes Brutus's tragedy too: Lesser stays strangely untouching...."
* Michael Billington, The Guardian, 21 April 2005, "Instead of all that tosh about the noblest Roman of them all, in Anton Lesser's fine performance he is a choleric hysteric, more concerned with his own image than making the right decisions. Agonising under a crescent moon in his orchard, Lesser is ironical with conspirators and waspishly vehement when crossed by Cassius. Gone, I hope forever, is the notion of Brutus as a putative Hamlet or a decent pipe-smoking liberal. The man is a walking political disaster; and Lesser is not afraid to highlight his enormous self-regard and double-think. When he says of Caesar, "Let's kill him nobly but not wrathfully", one is tempted to ask what difference that makes to the victim. Even after the assassination, Lesser shows Brutus cowering in quivering uncertainty: clearly the most neurotic Roman of all."
*Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph, 21 April 2005, "Lesser beautifully captures Brutus's grief over his wife's suicide.."
* Paul Taylor, The Independent, 21 April 2005, "Anton Lesser a compellingly tortured Brutus...."

Leontes in The Winter's Tale at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, in rep 26 October 2006 - 6 January 2007. It is directed by Dominic Cooke and stars Kate Fleetwood as Hermione and Linda Bassett as Paulina..

*Paul Taylor, The Independent, 17 November 2006, "It's the first time that I've ever seen a director take literally the idea that the jealous Leontes (excellently tormented Anton Lesser) and Polixenes (fine Nigel Cooke), the friend he deludedly believes has cuckolded him, were "twinned lambs" as children, giving them a strong resemblance, so that it looks as though either could be the father of Leontes' little boy".
*Michael Billington, The Guardian, 16 November 2006, "witness close-up the mental disintegration of Anton Lesser's remarkable Leontes. Tense and wiry, Lesser seems to be admitting us to the dark side of his sub-conscious as he seizes on words like "sluiced" and "slippery" to describe the sexual act."
*Kieron Quirke, Evening Standard, 16 November 2006, "Lesser's tortured jealousy at the start is compelling, but thereon he is a jittery tyrant of little complexity, his motivations forgotten."
*Benedict Nightingale, The Times, 17 November 2006: "With Anton Lesser finding serious jealousy, blistering anger and eventually a quiet, remorseful melancholy in Leontes, and Linda Bassett and Joseph Mydell strongly in support, The Winter’s Tale is never less than gripping. Myself, I had always found the reunion at the play’s end less moving than its counterparts in King Lear and Pericles; but not this time. When Lesser’s Leontes saw movement in the statue of Kate Fleetwood’s fine, feeling Hermione, and recognised that she was alive with a wondering “O, she’s warm”, I blinked and I gulped. Several times."
*Ian Shuttleworth, Financial Times, 17 November 2006, "I am belatedly coming round to the view that Anton Lesser is often just too actorly; but he gives his all at moments of fevered emotion, and as Leontes he has plenty of those: fevered jealousy about his wife Hermione, followed by fevered repentance."
*Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph, 17 November 2006, "Anton Lesser is in devastating form as the destructively jealous Leontes."
*Kate Bassett, The Independent, 19 November 2006, "Anton Lesser's small, ruinously insecure Leontes spits jealousy in his white tie and tails."
*Terry Grimley, The Birmingham Post, 17 November 2006, "Being so close is quite an experience when you have performances as terrific as Anton Lesser's steely-edged Leontes, whose sudden and insane delusion that he has been betrayed by his wife and oldest friend drives the first half of the play.... Lesser, who dons age along with a pair of glasses in Part 2, gives one of the production's outstanding performances."
*David Benedict, Variety, 26 November 2006, "Leontes (a meticulous, driven Anton Lesser)".
*Pete Wood, Whatsonstage.com, 26 November 2006, "Anton Lesser ... is on excellent form as Leontes, a part which requires an actor to turn, in an instant, from genial father and friend into a psychopath and, as suddenly, into one suddenly brought to his senses and deeply penitent."
*John Peter, Sunday Times, 26 November 2006, "Anton Lesser's performance misses out on the man's near-masochistic willingness, in the second half, to suffer his punishment, but he goes to the dark heart of Leontes the tyrant: the egotism, the way pain makes him angry, the way his obsession makes him root around for proof".
*Susannah Clapp, The Observer, 17 December 2006, "Anton Lesser's jealousy falls on him like a sad affliction; his face is that of someone squeezed by an agonising pain."

Still need approximate dates for the following productions:

Betty/Edward in Cloud Nine (Everyman Theatre)
Mark Antony in Julius Caesar (Tyne and Wear)
A Family of Voices
(almost there, chaps)
 

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