The casting of 72-year-old Toronto native Plummer — widely known for the film, "The Sound of Music," but long considered one of North America's finest classical actors — was designed to be a jewel in the crown of the festival's 50th season this year. Jonathan Miller, the recently-knighted onetime actor (Beyond the Fringe) and lauded opera and stage director, helms the titanic Shakespearean play.
King Lear Performances play the flagship Festival Theatre. Official opening is Aug. 24, with performances continuing to Nov. 6.
King Lear, of course, is the play and the role every former Hamlet actor aspires to; Plummer played Hamlet at Stratford in 1957. Old and addled, Lear punishes his one true daughter, Cordelia, by disinheriting her and rewards his corrupt daughters. At the same time, the Earl of Gloucester's bastard son, Edmund, turns Gloucester against his loyal son, Edgar. Both fathers learn too late that the child who says the least is often the most sincere.
Among Plummer's other roles at Stratford were Henry V (in 1956), Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night (in 1957), Bardolph in Henry IV, Part I, Leontes in The Winter's Tale and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing (all in 1958), Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet (in 1960), Macbeth and Cyrano de Bergerac (both in 1962) and John Barrymore in Barrymore in 1997. He went on to win a Tony Award for Barrymore, when the play moved to Broadway. Assistant director is Timothy Askew. Designers are Clare Mitchell (costumes), Robert Thomson (lighting), Berthold Carrière (music composition) and Peter McBoyle (sound). The fight directors are James Binkley and John Stead. Movement consultant is John Broome.
The cast features James Blendick as the Earl of Gloucester, Domini Blythe as Goneril, Marc R. Bondy as Cornwall's Servant, Evan Buliung as Edgar, Benedict Campbell as the Earl of Kent, Ian Deakin as the Duke of Albany, Gary Folka as Curan, Maurice Godin as Edmund, Bernard Hopkins as the Old Man, Anthony F. Ingram as the Herald, Tim MacDonald as the Duke of Burgundy, Barry MacGregor as the Fool, Sarah McVie as Cordelia, Aaron Olney as Cornwall's Servant, Lucy Peacock as Regan, Stephen Russell as the Duke of Cornwall, Roger Shank as Cornwall's Servant/Captain, David Snelgrove as the King of France, Brian Tree as Oswald (also fight captain) and Ian White as the Doctor.
Also appearing are Ryan Blakely, Laura Condlln, Dorian Foley, Stephen Gartner, Brian Livesey, K. Alexander Michael, Sara Topham, Bart Philip Williams and Brigit Wilson.
For more information, visit www.stratfordfestival.ca.
— By Kenneth Jones