The recent death of theatre luminary, John Neville has left Canada’s stage dark. The English theatre and film actor moved to Canada in 1972 to become the artistic director for Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre, which was only the beginning of Neville’s Canadian theatre career. His achievements as a leading Shakespearean actor with the Old Vic Company in England’s West End, during the 1950’s included roles in Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello and Richard II. Neville performed with the greats: Richard Burton, Dame Judi Dench and Vanessa Redgrave.
His Canadian career included stints at Halifax’s Neptune Theatre, and most noticeably was his position in 1986 as artistic director of the Stratford Festival of Canada. Neville’s first year at the Stratford Festival indicated adversity when the Festival was in financial trouble. As a risk taker, Neville was known for putting three of Shakespeare’s lesser-known romances on the Festival’s main stage as well as introducing musicals to the stage, effectively saving the Stratford Festival from their economic woes.
Neville’s claim to fame was his title role in the 1988 film, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and in the 1990’s was the popular and recurring guest role as the “Well-Manicured Man” on the X-Files.
Neville was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2006 for his extensive work in Canadian theatre and drama. After devoting his life to the development of live theatre, Neville’s talent and inspiration is admired for what he has accomplished in Canada’s theatrical industry. Neville passed away recently at the age of 86.
By Kristen Black