Posts Tagged ‘Michael Langham’

As we celebrate this special 50th anniversary year, it is significant that the opening production at the now RST on 4th April 1961 was MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING directed by Michael Langham who has just died at the age of 91.

Michael had been a director the previous year when Peter Hall decided that his first season as Artistic Director would include a number of the Comedies and his play was to be THE MERCHANT OF VENICE. Dorothy Tutin played Portia and the young Peter O’Toole played Shylock (prior to becoming better known as Lawrence of Arabia).

It was another comedy which Michael Langham was invited to direct the following season – MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING -an important play in the history of theatre at Stratford as it was the first to open the 1879 theatre. Then Beatrice and Benedick were played by Helen Faucit and Barry Sullivan. Fifty years ago, the roles were taken by Geraldine McEwan and a Canadian actor making his debut at Stratford – Christopher Plummer.

Plummer went on to play Richard III that season and subsequently followed O’Toole onto the wide screen, becoming known worldwide for his performance as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. His first big break had been in his native Canada in 1956 when Michael Langham (at the invitation of Tyrone Guthrie) was Artistic Director for the Stratford Ontario Festival.

During his opening season, Langham demonstrated his approach to Shakespeare’s text by treating it as “living thought” and he cast the young Christopher Plummer in Henry V. Years later, Plummer said he owed his career to this visiting Englishman who was at the helm in Ontario from 1956 to 1967. What is further significant is that not only was Michael Langham invited by Peter Hall to direct during the early work of the RSC, but that during his time in Canada he introduced a thrust stage at Stratford Ontario.

As we now celebrate our new thrust stage at Stratford -upon -Avon, surely Michael Langham’s talents will also be remembered as we recall our Ghosts in the Wall and proudly include those actors /directors/benefactors of the past who have made possible our present and future in this home town of Shakespeare .

 Tony Boyd-Williams

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