Obituary: Sir Antony Sher, a giant of the stage

 Antony Sher, who has died aged 72, once believed that acting was about "becoming someone else".

As a young man, not being himself was appealing. In his own mind, he had much to hide.

He was born a white South African, Jewish and gay. Introduced to the Queen as one of Britain's finest classical actors, he struggled to shake off an inner voice telling him he was an impostor, which he said whispered: "I shouldn't be here."

Actr Sir Antony Sher dies of cancer aged 72

But, as he slowly came to realise, the insecurities helped him on stage.

Shakespeare's great characters were outsiders too. Richard III was physically warped; King Lear and Iago were consumed by rage and jealousy; Shylock was part of a spurned community.

With every part he played, Sher confronted a little more of himself, learning to draw on painful memories to master Falstaff, Leontes and Macbeth.

Antony Sher as King Lear in 2016


Image caption,

Antony Sher as King Lear. His insecurities helped him portray Shakespeare's most complex characters

It was a difficult journey, which saw him treated for depression and cocaine addiction. But, by the end, he had changed his mind on a fundamental point.

"Acting is not about hiding," he admitted. "It is about revealing."


Antony Sher began life in Sea Point, a middle-class suburb of Cape Town, on 14 June 1949. He was born with a membrane around his head, which the doctor insisted was a sign of greatness.

Growing up in South Africa, young Tony felt out of place. He was weedy, artistic and withdrawn - with little in common with his sports-obsessed white classmates. "I always felt like a trespasser," he recalled.