On January 13, 2011, Roundabout opened Brian Bedford’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest, starring the man himself as Lady Bracknell, and now, five years later, we are mourning Brian’s passing. I can’t tell you how heartening it is to be able to think back to that opening night, with the walls of the theatre practically vibrating from the audience’s peals of laughter, and to remember the joy that Brian brought to us, even in this time of loss.
Brian’s life story was as theatrical as the man himself. Growing up in poverty, he was transported into a whole new world when, as a teenager, he was accepted to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. There, he became part of a class of fellow working class young men who would turn out to be some of the greatest actors of their generation, including Peter O’Toole and Alan Bates. He was taken under the wing of the legendary John Gielgud, from whom Brian would learn how important it was to share his wisdom with the next generation of artists.
Brian’s remarkable career spanned from a West End debut in 1956 and a Broadway debut in 1959, to several decades as a member of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and a Tony Award for his performance in Moliere’s The School for Wives. He would be nominated for Tony Awards six more times.
Brian was one of the greatest modern day interpreters of classic roles I’ve ever had the privilege to watch. His performances at Roundabout in The Moliere Comedies (1995), London Assurance (1997), Tartuffe (2003), and The Importance of Being Earnest (2011) showed us a man at the top of his profession, reinvigorating the great works for a new generation. His direction of that Earnest resulted in what I expect to be the most perfect production of that play that I will ever see.
All of us at Roundabout will miss Brian for his artistry, his kindness, his friendship, and all the roles still left to play.