Antony Sher (1949-2021)

Ian McKellen recalls his friend and fellow actor Antony Sher

Ian McKellen (Vanya) and Antony Sher (Astrov) in UNCLE VANYA, 1992. Photo by Mark Douet 

ANTONY SHER (1949- 2021)

Antony Sher was hugely, uniquely gifted as actor, author and artist. These talents often overlapped in his insightful, confessional books about his acclaimed performances and in his witty caricatures of his multiple disguises.

Since his untimely death this week, his fans will have recalled their favourite Sher achievements. Mine include his Richard 111, Stanley Spencer and latterly Primo Levi in his own play about the Holocaust (in London, New York and on film) and his final work with his fellow-South African, John Kani in Kunene and The King.

 Mostly, I admired him from afar on television and particularly at the Royal Shakespeare Company, working with his husband Greg Doran. But I was lucky to be Uncle Vanya to his Dr. Astrov at the National Theatre. And he and I battled it out in the extended version of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Away from work, I was with him when we visited Dachau and earlier in South Africa, working with local actors. I had just played Richard 111 and was invited to perform the opening speech of the play at a private occasion at the Market Theatre. I did my best but was bettered by Tony who followed me with his version of "Now is the winter of our discontent", hobbling on his famous crutches. The same day we prepared for Gay Pride March in Johannesburg. Greg and I stretched out the canvas for a banner on which Tony emblazoned "U.K.", our support for South African LGBT people.

His legacy is the books, the paintings and the recorded performances and the civil partnership on the first day it was legal, followed by his marriage to the devoted husband, who cared for him during his decline and in whose arms he died.

Ian McKellen, London, 4 December 2021


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Mid-1990s gay pride parade in Johannesburg. Antony Sher (who painted the banner), Gregory Doran, Jason, IM, Sean Mathias, ?, Patsy Rodenburg

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