Graham Harley, who was last seen onstage this summer in Soulpepper’s production of Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw, passed away surrounded by his family and friends on December 23rd, 2010.
Born in England, Harley, who wrote his PhD thesis on Restoration playwright Sir John Vanrugh, first taught in the United States before coming to Canada to teach at the University of Toronto and to make his mark on the theatre community here. He co-founded and acted as Artistic Director of the Phoenix Theatre in 1974, initially using a playing space in a second floor space on Dupont, which had once been a shoe factory. There he staged works by contemporary writers such as Simon Gray, David Mamet, Edward Bond, Alan Ayckbourn and Canadians such as Allan Stratton and Margaret Hollingsworth.
He appeared as an actor at both the Stratford and Shaw Festivals, as well as at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, the Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg, the Centaur Theatre in Montreal, Tarragon Theatre, Factory Theatre, Canadian Stage, Necessary Angel and Thèâtre Français. He was nominated for a Dora Award and a Jessie Richardson Award (Vancouver) for his role in David Pownall’s play Master Class.
His film and television roles are extensive, although he is perhaps best known for his role of Cyril on Slings and Arrows, he was also Caravaggio on Starhunter and played Walter the Concierge in Eloise at the Plaza and Eloise at Christmastime. Mr. Cibber of Drury Lane, Harley’s first play, was commissioned by the Stratford Festival for its CBC Radio/Bank of Montreal series, in which it was broadcast in June 1997, starring Bernard Hopkins.
He leaves his lifelong friend Jon Comerford, his God-children Jordan and Hunter, his niece Joanne and he is the great-uncle of Rackan, Hakeem and Amaly.