Graham Abbey’s Groundling Theatre Company brings world-class Shakespeare to Toronto


Stage and screen lion Graham Abbey founded his fledgling Groundling Theatre Company because he wanted to employ our top classical actors, directors and designers to produce world-class Shakespeare in Toronto.

Guess who got what he wanted?

Actors supported by the Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation are working on all shapes and sizes of stages and screens all over the world.

Graham Abbey, who still gets fan mail from his CBC-TV series The Border, is spending most of his time these days on two passion projects – his new theatre company and Stratford’s.

Abbey’s new Groundling Theatre Company received an auspicious christening last month with a 100-seat storefront theatre production of A Winter’s Tale. With Abbey directing a glittering cast including Tom McCamus, Lucy Peacock, Michelle Giroux and Brent Carver, he had to start adding extra performances even before those glowing reviews came out. The show runs through February 20 at the Coal Mine Theatre in Toronto, but good luck getting a ticket.

Abbey admits it took him four years to get his Groundling Company aloft. But it’s taken him 12 years – two thirds of his time as a Stratford Festival player – to breathe life into his other passion project. And no wonder – it’s an undertaking of Shakespearean proportion.

Conceived and adapted by Abbey, Breath of Kings condenses Richard II and Henry IV Part I into one evening, then Henry IV Part II and Henry V into another. In another major casting coup, festival favourites Tom Rooney and Geraint Wyn Davies are set to play Richard II and Falstaff, respectively.

And TIFF Rising Star Johnathan Sousa, another Linehan Foundation beneficiary, will make his Stratford debut as Hotspur. But the good news for his stage and screen fans is that Abbey himself will play Henry IV.

Previews of Breath of Kings are slated to begin at Stratford on May 30 and May 31, with the twin world premiere opening nights scheduled for June 22 and June 23 – and yes, tickets to this ambitious Abbey venture are still obtainable. Get more information.