The ‘Everest’ of all parts


    English actor Andrew Jarvis is indisputably a professional; his spine is clearly at his command to rise as an impenetrable pillar or scurry into a swamp like an amphibian. The 56-year-old has brought his talents to Malibu to share with local students at Pepperdine University.

    Jarvis is currently the “artist in residence” at the university and this semester worked with students to present “King Lear,” which he directed and played the title role.

    Jarvis, an authority on Shakespeare, has been acting for 34 years, the last 20 solely focusing on Shakespeare. He has been a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company for six years in Stratford upon Avon (the birthplace of Shakespeare), a member of the English Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, both in London, and also toured around the world for two years performing “The War of the Roses.”

    Most recently, Jarvis has been teaching and directing. He is a professor at the Mountview Theatre School in London, England, which hosts Pepperdine students yearly during Pepperdine’s Edinburgh International Program.

    Jarvis recently spoke about his work in Shakespeare and why the author’s work is able to have such lasting impact with audiences.

    “The reason Shakespeare stays is that he critiques how people behave culturally and politically in real life,” Jarvis says. Thus Shakespeare’s words are applicable beyond time and space.

    Jarvis solidifies his loyalty to Shakespeare further, explaining: “Human nature doesn’t change, but the options do for humans.”

    He adds, “I think what Shakespeare does well is to set up a dialectic, leaving decision and choice to the audience.”

    Jarvis came to Pepperdine at the suggestion of Stewart O’Rourke, who played the Earl of Gloucester in “King Lear.”

    Referring to his role as Lear, Jarvis says passionately, “If you’re lucky enough you get one part, the Everest of all parts, and for most actors it is King Lear.”

    Of the character Jarvis says, “Lear sees himself as a God and his journey is to learn what it is to be a man, so it is an ultimate challenge, like Mount Everest, for an actor because by the time you are able to play it, you are too old. I am 30 years off in understanding life. King Lear is 80 years old.”

    Jarvis adds to his Everest analogy, saying, “On the way up, you see the bodies … Orson Welles, Charles Laughton, John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, and you hope you get as far as they did. Me, I am nowhere near Laughton and Gielgud. I’m in the foothills.”

    When asked about American students, Jarvis says they are often worried that they feel they do not speak Shakespeare correctly.

    “But they do,” he says. “Shakespeare is about the words and the context.”

    “Howl, Howl, Howl, Howl…” begins Lear’s epithet in response to his favorite daughter’s death, and marking his understanding what it is to be an animal/man.

    Jarvis says, “You never win with Shakespeare, just like with the notes of Beethoven; it goes on and opens. There is always somewhere else to go.”

    Jarvis is off to Tacoma, Wash. next where he will direct “Romeo and Juliet.”