richard monette and domini blythe in 1972
It is with great sadness that I write about the death of Domini Blythe, a veteran actor of the Stratford Festival who passed away from cancer in Montreal on December 15th, 2010.
She was born into a theatrical family in 1947 in England and studied at the Central School of Drama in London before working with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She went on to perform in the very controversial West End erotic revue Oh! Calcutta!, created by British drama critic Kenneth Tynan. It was in this show that she met Canadian actor Richard Monette, and her relationship with him brought her to Canada in 1972. She spent three seasons at the Shaw Festival, where she played, among other roles, Cleopatra in Caesar and Cleopatra. In 1976, at the invitation of Artistic Director Robin Phillips, she joined the company at the Stratford Festival. That year she played leading roles in The Way of the World, The Merchant of Venice and Antony and Cleopatra.
Other performances at the Stratford Festival include many leading roles, including Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest with William Hutt, directed by former Artistic Director Robin Phillips; the title role in Miss Julie; Sorel in Hay Fever; Celia in As You Like It; Lavinia in Titus Andronicus; Rosaline in Love’s Labour’s Lost; Desdemona in Othello; Margery Pinchwife in The Country Wife; Elmire in Tartuffe; Mrs. Shankland and Sybil in Separate Tables; Portia in The Merchant of Venice; Gertrude in Hamlet; The Countess in All’s Well that Ends Well; Frau Lehzen in The Swanne; Mamita in Gigi; Liz Essendine in Present Laughter; and Goneril in King Lear opposite Christopher Plummer. This production of King Lear transferred to Broadway in 2004 and garnered two Tony nominations.
Current Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival, Des McAnuff, said of Blythe, “Domini was a magnificent actor and a luminescent beauty. I have long admired her work, and I take comfort in the knowledge that her legacy continues here in Stratford with the many artists that she mentored over the years. She will be missed by hundreds of theatre artists and many thousands of theatre patrons.” General Director, Antoni Cimolino calls Blythe, “a resourceful actress who played a wide variety of roles in the Shakespearean canon” also stating that she was, “perhaps the most beautiful actress of her generation.”
Ms Blythe last appeared on the Stratford stage in 2006 when she played Mistress Quickly in Henry VI Part 1, directed by former Artistic Director Richard Monette, and that same year she staged her one-woman show Fanny Kemble at the Studio Theatre, co-created and directed by Peter Hinton. She had also played leading roles in Richard II and Richard III with the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as performing at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, the Saint Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts, the Centaur Theatre in Montreal and at the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario.
Onscreen, Blythe appeared on such television programs as Mount Royal and in such films as Ties That Bind and The Trotsky among many others.
She is survived by her husband, Jean Beaudin; her father, Richard Blythe; her brother, Ben Blythe, sister-in-law Andrea Schlieker and their two children Lily and Phinn.
To read a heartfelt rememberance of Domini Blythe written by Robert Cushman of The National Post, click here.