‘Pioneer, true national treasure’: Stage actress Barbara Chilcott dies aged 99

TORONTO – Theater actress Barbara Chilcott, a driving force of the Canadian stage for more than half a century, has passed away.

Carol Davis-Manol said Chilcott, her first cousin ever to be amputated, died at her home in Toronto of age-related natural causes on New Year’s Day. She is 99 years old.

Once a fixture at the Crest Theater in Toronto and a regular player at the Stratford Festival in its early years, Chilcott has moved between, said William Scoular, a former colleague and renowned director. Canada and Great Britain throughout their career performing on stage.

“She was a pioneer – a true national treasure who paved the way for so many female actors after her,” he said.

Chilcott began his career in 1943 as a member of the Canadian Auxiliary Services Recreation Unit during World War II and touring entertainment for British and European armies. After the war ended, she remained in England and attended the Central School of Speech and Drama in London before making her West End debut in 1949.

Scoular said: “Barbara was determined to be an actress, so she set out for London because there was no professional theater at the time (in Canada) and she was the first Canadian to star on the West End. .

She returned to Canada in 1950 and performed on CBC Radio before joining brothers Murray Davis and Donald Davis in their summer theater company, Straw Hat Players.

Her brothers also founded the Crest Theater in 1953, where she played Viola in Twelfth Night, Antigone in Antigone, and Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra.

Scoular explains: “Everybody has performed at the Crest Theatre.

He said she then spent many years traveling back and forth between the UK and Canada, acting on stage, television and film in both countries. In 1963, she founded the Crest Hour Company to tour plays for schools.

Scoular, who directed Chilcott’s last performance at the age of 89, said she was a modest actress but throughout her career she has worked with many great artists in the arts and entertainment fields. , including JB Priestley, The Beatles, Maharishi and Sean Connery.

He also credits her with persuading British director Tyrone Guthrie, who helped establish the first Stratford Festival in 1953, to Canada.

Scoular said: “Barbara has a great laugh and a wicked sense of humour, and despite being a tight-lipped person, she loves being part of a (theater) company more than anything. what. “The show was really for her more than anything else in the world and I think the last years, when she wasn’t on a show, her life was pretty dull.”

Chilcott survived when her husband, Harry Somers, a famous Canadian composer, died in 1999. She had no children.

“She’s the type of actress that doesn’t need to be told what to do, she just knows how to do it. She can talk more with a raised eyebrow than most actresses. could speak to the whole speech,” Scoular said.

This Canadian Press report was first published on January 2, 2022.

– By Brieanna Charlebois in Vancouver


This story was made possible with the financial support of Facebook and the Canada Press News Fellowship.


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