Q&A: King Lear

David Fox on Shakespeare, acting and why King Lear is the best play ever written

Presented by the Watershed Shakespeare Festival Collective
Written by William Shakespeare
Adapted and directed by Rod Carley
Starring David Fox

David Fox as King Lear. Photo by Anthony Leclair.

David Fox is probably best known for his role as school teacher Clive Pettibone on the long-running television series Road to Avonlea, but the Swastika, Ontario-born actor is no stranger to the stage—he has appeared with every major theatre company in Canada over his nearly 50-year career. Fox's credits include significant premieres of collective creations at Theatre Passe Muraille in the 1970s including; The Farm Show, 1837: The Farmer's Revolt, As Far as the Eye Can See and Them Donnellys. In 1999, Fox premiered the role of Angus, for which he won a Dora Mavor Moore Award, in Michael Healey’s The Drawer Boy, a prequel to The Farm Show.

This season, Fox returns to Theatre Passe Muraille as the title character in the Watershed Shakespeare Festival Collective's King Lear. Adapted and directed by Rod Carley, the production sets the play within the context of the British court during the Rebellion of 1837 in pre-Confederation Upper Canada. Often regarded as Shakespeare’s greatest work; a masterpiece among masterpieces, King Lear is a domestic tragedy examining the breakdown of family relationships.

Here, Fox talks about collaborating with Carley on the show and the insurmountable challenge of the part he is tasked with playing.

Theatromania: Tell us about The Watershed Shakespeare Festival Collective’s King Lear. How would you describe this production in a few sentences?

DF: I met Rod Carley in 1991, at Stratford; I was playing Thomas Stockmann in Enemy of the People; he was in the directors' programme. I worked with him in North Bay's Nipissing Stage Company for several years, among other jobs. I grew up north of North BaySwastika, near Kirkland Lake—iand always wanted to play my home town. North Bay is as close as I got. Rod suggested King Lear as a "legacy" project.

Last March/April we played in North Bay's Trinity United Church with some success that led us to bring it to Toronto now for a brief 10-11 shows rented from Theatre Passe Muraille. The cast remains a combination of actors, professional, semi-professional, some graduates of Canadore College's Theatre Programme.

"Watershed" refers to the height of land that North Bay sits on in this region of the province—to the north water flows into James Bay, to the south it flows into the Great Lakes; just as here Shakespeare flows through Canadian perspectives. Rod's Henry V was set in a hockey rinkMontreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs. Our case is a "collective" in that cast and crew play for an equal divvy of the "gate."

Theatromania: Rod Carley’s adaptation sets the play in the British court during the Rebellion of 1837 in pre-Confederation Upper Canada. Does this Canadian context change the way you understand the play?

DF: King Lear, Shakespeare's play, is very much a study in British (as opposed to English) revivalism. But that same white British presumption of superiority, and need to control, applies to the North America of the 19th century (at least!)Hudson Bay Company, Canada Company, The Family Compact—anything is for the taking, with repercussions.

Theatromania: The role of King Lear is often described as a mountain – the Everest of Shakespearean roles. How do you prepare yourself to tackle a part of this magnitude?

DF: King Lear as a mountain: I am not a rock-climber, but my experience in theatre reminds me that every play, seen from a distance, is a mountainand you dismiss this fact at your peril. The beauty of King Lear is that each challenge feeds you the more it exasperates you, and that mystery never lets up. The play's greatness, I believe, lives in your never reaching the summit.

Theatromania: What have you learned from this experience so far?

DF: I've learned that Lear is the best play ever writtena timeless, riveting family tale of love, lust, treachery and redemption. It wrenches each of us.

See David Fox in King Lear, on stage from November 26 to December 6, 2015 at Theatre Passe Muraille. Visit artsboxoffice.ca to buy tickets. For more information visit kinglearproject.com.

Show Dates: 
Thu, 2015-11-26 - Sun, 2015-12-06


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.