Saturday, August 16, 2008

Christopher Plummer Reading

Christopher Plummer will read Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang on Saturday, August 23 at 11am. Tickets are available here.

Read more about the special at the Globe and Mail:

"The man who originally recorded the tales of Jacob Two-Two will crack the spine of Mordecai Richler's famous debut children's book for the first time in two decades next Saturday, as Christopher Plummer gives his first-ever live reading of Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang on a Stratford stage.

"The Canadian veteran of stage and film, who recorded the first two instalments of Richler's trilogy for the CBC in the 1980s, will read an abridged version of the first book to raise funds to send underprivileged youth to Stratford.

"The reading will also serve as a reunion for the actor and Richler's widow, Florence, a friend and admirer of Plummer since their youth in Montreal. 'I met Florence when she was married to Stanley Mann, the writer, way back when she was the most beautiful model that Montreal had - but she was always very bright and clever, she had a terrific brain,' says Plummer, adding that he and Mordecai were also fond friends.

"Plummer is at Stratford first and foremost to play the lead role in the Des McAnuff production of Caesar and Cleopatra, which opens tomorrow, and is heading into a nearly sold-out run that ends Nov. 8. Last fall, Don Shipley, part of the now-defunct leadership triumvirate under Antoni Cimolino, proposed the reading. Plummer, thinking it 'a rather nice thing to do,' chose the charity, and agreed to participate pro bono.

"Plummer fondly recalls recording readings of Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang and its sequel, Jacob Two-Two and the Dinosaur, in the 1980s, and recently dug up an old recording. 'I'm going to play it, just to see how I did, before I do the reading,' says Plummer. 'I do voices for most of them, and God knows what accents I use, but anything to be different from the narrative.'

"The Jacob Two-Two series was born 'by accident' of a charmingly simple paternal act. Florence recounts that she had her hands full with the couple's other children before hosting dinner guests one evening, and deposited Jacob, then about 5, on Mordecai's chest as he reclined on the sofa reading the paper. She asked Mordecai to tell their son a story. 'And while I was leaving the living room, I heard Mordecai say, "Well, there was once ..." and he went on to call this character, this little chap, Jacob Two-Two. I swear to you, it was spontaneous and wonderful.'

"She lingered, listening at the living-room door, and later urged Mordecai to write it down. He 'looked a little puzzled,' and said nothing more about it for some time. One night, she recalls, 'After dinner, he said, "When you have time, would you read this?" and that was the first Jacob Two-Two.'

"Jacob, now a journalist and in his late 30s, says he is eager to take his own children, age 8 and 10, to Plummer's reading, adding that when he was a child he 'was too young to know how unusual and special and exceptional it was to have your dad write a children's story more or less about you.'

"Florence says Jacob's siblings never seemed thrilled at their imaginative portrayals: Jacob, for example, never had his fictional alter ego's trademark habit of saying everything twice; and Florence notes that 'this was not a boisterous family by any means,' in contrast to the books' rollicking quintet.

"Says Plummer: 'I think it's irresistible. It's just a bunch of extraordinarily unattractive [characters] all thrown into one delicious little book picking fun at youth and old age and everything.'

"Having surpassed a three-quarters capacity audience in the 1,072-seat Avon Theatre two weeks in advance of the show's opening, with little advertising, the reading demonstrates the enduring appeal of the series for children and adults alike. 'The shock of this so-called difficult personality, Mordecai Richler, writing something as amusing and tender as a children's book, that in itself was most appealing,' says Florence.

"Plummer, meanwhile, hopes events such as this one can help keep the late author at the forefront of Canadian consciousness. 'I don't know who has replaced him in Canada,' says the actor. 'I don't think anyone yet. This country, more and more, needs to be able to laugh at itself. Particularly in these humourless times, we need Mordecai desperately. He's wonderfully naughty and disrespectful. He's just a great satirist.'"

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