|Born||14 June 1949
Cape Town, South Africa
|Occupation||Actor, Writer, Director, Painter|
Sher was born into a Lithuanian Jewish family in Cape Town, South Africa, the son of Margery and Emmanuel Sher, who worked in business. He grew up in the suburb of Sea Point (his cousin is Ronald Harwood), but he has worked mainly in the United Kingdom and is now a British citizen.
In 1968, after completing his compulsory military service, he left for London to audition at the Central School of Speech and Drama, but was unsuccessful. Instead, he studied at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art from 1969 to 1971. After training, and some early performances with the theatre group Gay Sweatshop, he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1982.
In the 1970s Sher was part of an astonishing group of young actors and writers working at the Liverpool Everyman. It consisted of the likes of writers Willy Russell and Alan Bleasdale and fellow actors Bernard Hill, Julie Walters, Trevor Eve and Jonathan Pryce. The work performed was highly regarded (two successes being John, Paul, George, Ringo … & Bert with Sher playing Ringo and Richard III with Sher as Buckingham). Sher summed up the work of the company with the phrase "Anarchy ruled." At the Royal Shakespeare Company he took the title role in Tartuffe and played the Fool in King Lear before his big breakthrough in 1984, when he played the title role in Shakespeare's Richard III. This won him the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award. Since then he has played the lead in many major productions, including Tamburlaine, Cyrano de Bergerac, Stanley and Macbeth. He also played Johnnie in Athol Fugard's Hello and Goodbye, Iago in Othello and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.
In the 1996 film adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, Sher starred as the Chief Weasel. In 1997, his portrayal of Disraeli in the film Mrs. Brown was well received, and he won his second Laurence Olivier Award for his performance as Stanley Spencer in Stanley. In television, he starred in the miniseries The History Man (1981) and The Jury (2002). In 2003 he played the central character in an adaptation of the J G Ballard short story The Enormous Space, filmed as Home and broadcast on BBC Four. Recent cinema credits include a cameo in the British comedy Three and Out released on 25 April 2008 and the role of Akiba in the acclaimed television play God on Trial.
Sher's books include the memoirs: Woza Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus in South Africa, with Gregory Doran (1997); Year of the King (1985); Beside Myself (2002); Characters (1990); and Primo Time (2005). He also wrote the novels Middlepost (1989), Cheap Lives (1995), The Indoor Boy (1996), and The Feast (1999).
Sher is also the author of several plays, including ID (2003) and Primo (2004). The latter was adapted for the screen in 2005. In 2008 The Giant, the first of his plays in which Sher did not feature, was performed at the Hampstead Theatre. The main characters are: Michelangelo at the time of his creation of David; Leonardo da Vinci; and Vito, their mutual apprentice. Sher's research for the story drew greatly upon Vasari's Lives.
In 2005 Sher directed Breakfast With Mugabe at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, which transferred to the Soho Theatre (in April 2006) and the Duchess Theatre (May 2006).
In 2007 he made a Channel 4 crime documentary, Murder Most Foul, about his native South Africa. The documentary examines the gruesome murders of young actor Brett Goldin and fashion designer Richard Bloom. Sher also travelled to the ghettoes where the murderers came from and interviewed the family and friends of Goldin and Bloom as well as those of other murder victims.
Despite his success, a shy and insecure Sher turned to cocaine as an antidote and by 1996 spent three weeks in rehabilitation. In 2005, he and his partner, the director Gregory Doran with whom he frequently collaborates professionally, became one of the first gay couples to form a civil partnership in Britain. In 2002, Sher and his partner became vegetarian.