Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"A handbag?"

Yesterday, I wrote about my daughters, pacifiers, and a particular purple-and-pink flowered purse.

Today, I write about "A handbag".

Yesterday afternoon, Canada's foremost actor quietly passed away at Stratford General Hospital. He was a great man who lived a long, miraculous life: he had "good innings", as my father would say.

William Hutt was one of my heroes. Not only was he a spectacular actor, he was a spectacular person. He was a perfectionist, and as an actor, he was nothing short of perfection.

I remember vividly the first time I ever laid eyes on the man. This is largely because he was dressed as a woman at the time. I was six years old, and my father took me to see Mr. Hutt play Lady Bracknell in the Stratford Festival's "The Importance of Being Earnest", which was staged at the Avon Theatre. As Lady Bracknell, Mr. Hutt was the essence of ferocious dignity and upper-class snobbery. He carried himself with such incredible poise, that when my father laughingly informed me that Lady Bracknell was actually a "lord", I was bowled over. Hell, he looked just like my Granny.

The pinnacle of the performance, which I shall never forget, came when Lady Bracknell reacted to being told that the young man who wished to marry her daughter was abandoned as a baby, and found in a railway station, tucked into a large handbag. "A handbag?" responds the incredulous great lady... But, unlike most actors portraying Lady Bracknell, the line was not shouted or screeched, accompanied by wild clutching of the throat... Mr. Hutt, in his wisdom, lowered his voice till it was just barely audible. He quietly uttered the words, emanating the pure essence of self-control, and pinned "Earnest" with a piercing glare. The understatement was nothing short of brilliant: he immediately brought the entire house down.

In my memory, all of Mr. Hutt's performances were like that. There was absolutely no ham-acting. Every role he played, be it high comedy or devastating tragedy, came across as believable, as human, as "truth". He could do anything, and it seems to me, he DID do everything... with such grace.

I cannot imagine Stratford without Mr. Hutt. It seems impossible to me. He has always been there, living in his beautiful house by the bridge, and treading The Boards of the three great stages. For so many years, he was one of the people who made the theatre what it was.

His is one of the voices I hear in my head, whenever I think of "home".

Goodbye, Bill. I'll miss you terribly.

"Alas, poor world, what treasure hast thou lost!"
--Venus and Adonis

1 comment:

rev. shawn said...

Amen ... well put ... You must have excelled in English in University !!

But, I have to admit to an - ARRRGGGHHH !!! here ...

The photo you used is the ONE I wanted for my blog, but I couldn't find it ...

BUT, I can think of no better tribute to Bill than THAT image - it's the one burned in my memory when I think of him ...

Such a fine actor ... he WILL be missed, and Stratford will never be quite the same ...

you've honoured him well. Thanks.

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