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Meet Daryl Shuttleworth: Globe Theatre’s Henry

February 4, 2013

It was inevitable. As an actor, he was bound to come face to face with the Stanislavsky Method at some point in his life. The fact that it happened sooner rather than later says a great deal about Daryl Shuttleworth and the teacher who directed him as Fagin in an elementary school production of Oliver!

Shuttleworth was in Grade 5, an impressionable 10-year-old, growing up in suburban Vancouver, when his life was changed forever by AlDaryl Shuttleworth Pitchler, who was in his first year of teaching and just as enthusiastic about his own chosen profession as an educator. “He was singlehandedly responsible for lighting the fire,” Shuttleworth says. “He’s the reason I’m an actor today.”

In preparing him to perform the role of Fagin, a much older character, of course, Pitchler instructed young Shuttleworth to go home and observe his grandfather, particularly the way he moved his hands and his feet. Pitchler also encouraged him to take on the tricky British accent, and granted him the artistic freedom to make Fagin his own by including the little hop-step that Shuttleworth had seen comedian Red Skelton execute to the sound of a cowbell on television.

“I was bitten early,” Shuttleworth says, and while he has known the pleasure of a reunion with Pitchler, the portrayal of Fagin in 1970 remains a singular experience. “It would be lovely to play Fagin again, but it’s not going to happen, because, physically, at 200 pounds, I’m too burly.”

Through elementary school, it was musicals, mostly. In high school Shuttleworth expanded his student repertoire to include performances in such works as Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. After that, it was on to the University of Victoria and then the National Theatre School in Montreal, a formal education that encompassed five years in all. “Five years!” he says with a smile. “I could have been a doctor.”

Thirty years later, at the age of 52, Shuttleworth has appeared on stages across Canada, and if the last three decades have taught him anything, he says, it’s a deep appreciation of Canadian playwrights and a profound respect for theatre audiences. “The audience owns the spaces,” he says, “and we need to encourage our audiences to take ownership.”

Most recently, these two integral elements have converged in a production of Henry And Alice: Into The Wild, written by Vancouver’s Michele Riml and presented in-the-round at Globe Theatre. Indeed, when Shuttleworth (as Henry) asks Alice (Jan Alexandra Smith) to dance, he leaves the impression that the invitation has been extended to include the audience itself, as a gesture of appreciation, a salute.

For Shuttleworth, specifically, a pivotal moment arrives when Henry appeals to no less a power than God with a passionate request for assistance in making sense of a life that has been pitched suddenly into confusion by the unexpected loss of his job.

Shuttleworth’s inspiration for this scene, indeed for the role itself, comes from his father, who worked for 37 years in the railway division of B.C. Hydro in New Westminster, and passed away not long ago, two years into his retirement. “In some ways, this part is for my dad,” Shuttleworth says. “In some ways, I think my dad was Henry at that age.”

Experience has taught Shuttleworth the importance of identifying closely with his fellow human beings and drawing from that source whenever it is necessary. “That’s our job, as actors, all of us. You have to find what’s similar,” he says. “You have to personalize it. You have to personalize everything, or it will never, ever be real to your audience.”

The challenges in the show are many for Shuttleworth, Smith, and Natascha Girgis, who plays Diana, Alice’s sister and Henry’s sister-in-law. Perhaps the greatest of them is to go beyond the schtick in search of substance, for this is a comedy with dramatic undertones. “We took it very seriously, all three of us,” Shuttleworth says. “I think that’s what a good play should do, give people something serious to think about.”

Boiled down to its essence, Henry And Alice: Into The Wild is a play about three flawed characters, and they are flawed for no other reason than because they happen to be humans. The payoff for Daryl Shuttleworth comes when Henry releases his grip on the swinging rope and allows himself to fall into the lake. “For me, anyway, that’s what the play is all about, as the actor who has the role of Henry,” he says. “It’s about fear. It’s about the loss of control. Letting go of the rope. That’s the play, for Henry. Letting go of the rope.”

Henry And Alice: Into The Wild runs from January 23 – February 10, 2013. Visit the Globe Theatre website for more details, cast information, and to purchase tickets.

Nick Miliokas is a freelance writer and editor based in Regina. You can reach him by email at rozenstern@rocketmail.com.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Daryl Shuttleworth permalink
    February 7, 2013 12:25 am

    Thanks, Nik. Great article. Was a lot of fun meeting and talking with you.

    One correction… I’m just 52, not 56! ;-)

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