Ac­tor Brian Bed­ford dies

Tony Award win­ner was main­stay of Broad­way, Strat­ford Fes­ti­val

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OBITUARIES - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Ac­claimed Bri­tish ac­tor Brian Bed­ford, a Tony Award-win­ning main­stay of Broad­way and On­tario’s Strat­ford Fes­ti­val, has died.

The fes­ti­val in Strat­ford, Ont., told The Cana­dian Press that Bed­ford died on Wed­nes­day in Santa Bar­bara, Calif., af­ter a 2 1/2-year bat­tle with can­cer. He was 80.

“The doc­tors were just as­tounded by his will to live,” said Ann Sw­erdfager, the fes­ti­val’s pub­lic­ity di­rec­tor.

An­toni Ci­molino, the fes­ti­val’s artis­tic di­rec­tor, said in a state­ment that “Brian Bed­ford was the prime rea­son I went into the theatre.”

Bed­ford had been ail­ing in re­cent years.

In early 2014, ill­ness forced him to pull out of his role as the pope in a tour­ing pro­duc­tion of the Vat­i­can mys­tery thriller “The Last Con­fes­sion” that vis­ited Toronto. It was a part he said he’d been “re­ally look­ing for­ward” to, not­ing John Paul I was “a very, very sweet, mod­est, lovely per­son and I haven’t played that kind of part for a long, long time.”

In June 2013, he with­drew from his role as Shy­lock in “The Mer­chant of Venice” at the Strat­ford Fes­ti­val due to “a med­i­cal con­di­tion.” He also missed shows dur­ing the fes­ti­val’s 2011 sea­son.

Bed­ford was a fix­ture in the south­west­ern On­tario com­mu­nity of Strat­ford, where he worked at the fes­ti­val for 29 sea­sons, act­ing and di­rect­ing.

In 2009, he brought down the house di­rect­ing and star­ring (in full drag) as Lady Brack­nell in the fes­ti­val’s pro­duc­tion of “The Im­por­tance of Be­ing Earnest,” which moved to Broad­way and earned him a 2011 Tony Award nom­i­na­tion for best ac­tor.

The pro­duc­tion it­self won a Tony for best cos­tume de­sign and was nom­i­nated for an­other for best re­vival of a play.

Born in Mor­ley, York­shire, Eng­land to a postal clerk father and a mother who worked in a weav­ing mill, Bed­ford’s child­hood was plagued by poverty and ill­ness (two of his brothers died of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis).

Af­ter join­ing an am­a­teur theatre com­pany as a teen, he landed a schol­ar­ship to study at Lon­don’s Royal Academy of Dra­matic Art, where class­mates in­cluded Peter O’Toole and Al­bert Fin­ney.

Bed­ford’s big break came with “Five Fin­ger Ex­er­cise,” which moved from Lon­don to Broad­way with co-star Jes­sica Tandy in 1959.

He went on to star in more than 18 Broad­way pro­duc­tions, win­ning a Tony in ‘71 for his lead­ing role in “The School for Wives” and net­ting Tony nom­i­na­tions for sev­eral other roles.

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