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by Lisa Rainford
Actor Matthew Edison, a Dupont and Dundas West streets resident, plays
the lead in Michel Tremblay’s ‘The Real World?’ at the Tarragon Theatre,
opening May 2, 2012. Courtesy photo.
To play the lead in Michel Tremblay’s ‘The Real World?’ thespian Matthew Edison conjures up some advice an acting coach once gave him.
“If you’re playing Hamlet, don’t assume you’re not him,” his instructor advised. “Start from what you know.”
Edison, a Dupont and Dundas West streets area resident, plays Claude in playwright Tremblay’s ‘The Real World?’ presented by the Tarragon Theatre opening May 2.
“Claude is Tremblay in some ways,” said Edison in an interview Thursday, April 19. “We’re different looking with different backgrounds. I didn’t want to go the literal route to make myself look like Tremblay, but I write. We’re both involved in the theatre and have similar issues with family.”
Real World is a story within a story, said Edison. The mother of a precocious young playwright takes issue with his latest play: it puts private, family matters centre stage while liberally blending fiction with the truth.
“I just felt it was a really compelling premise,” said Edison. “I didn’t know this, but Michel wrote the play about his family – and it really disrupted the family.”
The play delves into the argument, should or can playwrights truly write what they know? If they use family members as inspiration for characters in a play, what happens when those family members object to their theatrical selves?
“No one wants to be forced to face the truth,” said Edison. “Claude, who writes the play, he doesn’t involve himself in the play. The audience is asked to compare truths – whose truth is more there? The real one or the one he wrote?”
Edison, whose stage and screen credits include Amadeus, Proof and The Real Thing, Harriet the Spy 2 and Flash of Genius, says he was a shy, socially awkward kid, who wasn’t particularly good at school. He fell in with a bunch of “bored suburban kids,” who found themselves often in trouble.
“I got tired of hanging with those kids and started going to an improv class at lunch,” said Edison.
The class competed in an improv competition, which it came in dead last, but the organizer told Edison’s coach that he had talent and should apply to his hometown of Ottawa’s Canterbury High School.
“There was a girl who went there for dance who I liked,” recalled Edison. “The neat thing about theatre is that it allows you to come out of your shell while wearing a mask.”
After graduating high school, Edison studied in New York at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting before settling in Toronto.
“I always felt I’d come back to Toronto after theatre school. All my friends are here; there’s work,” he said.
As a writer, Edison received rave reviews for his play ‘The Domino Heart’ and penned the screen adaptation of CBC Television’s Othello.
Asked whether he has a preference between stage and screen, Edison says, “I like acting period.”
This interview first appeared on InsideToronto.com on April 25, 2012.