Costume design by Tanya Moiseiwitsch
The better part of valour
Falstaff Street was part of a survey laid out by William Mackenzie in 1853. It also includes Milton and Shakespeare streets. It seems Mackenzie was agreed with the tradition of using Shakespearean and literary names for Stratford streets.
Falstaff Street is named after Sir John Falstaff, one of the most famous comic characters in Shakespeare's plays. Falstaff has been described as an obese, witty, bawdy, old knight known for his heavy drinking, lying and thieving. He was a boastful drinking companion of Prince Henry.
While famous, Falstaff appears in only three of Shakespeare's plays — Henry IV Parts I and Il, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Though he does not appear in the play, Falstaff's death is reported in Henry V. In the first version of the Henry IV plays, Sir John Oldcastle appears as a disreputable companion of Prince Hal, who has been engaged with him in robbing the King's taxes. Shakespeare changed the name to Falstaff, probably because of protests from the Oldcastle family.
Fastolf was an English career soldier whose name was apparently altered to Falstaff by Shakespeare. But the record states that bore little resemblance to each other. One source says Sir John Fastolf was a cowardly knight, so take your choice. The Merry Wives of Windsor was the third and last play involving Falstaff.
Douglas Campbell (see Mornington Street) first played Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1956. He played him again in Henry IV Part 1: in 1958. Campbell was hailed as one of the finest Falstaffs the theatre ever had. By Stanford Dingman
The Stratford Festival 1953 -1957, Clark , Irwin and Co., 1958
Douglas Campbell as Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1956. The six fairies are choirboys from St. John's United Church, dressed in his play as vegetables. Donald McPherson (later a world-champion figure skater) is to the right of Falstaff. Personal note: I am on the left as a bean with a pea shooter, poking Falstaff. Paul Wilker
Listen to Antonio Salieri - Falstaff Overture . Salieri was made famous by the movie "Amadeus".
Back row, from left: Gordon Conoy 13, (co-contributor to the Streets of Stratford), Paul Wilker 13, Richard Fuhrman and Lloyd Monteith 12. Front row, from left: Hugh McCaul 9, Kenneth Boyes 11, Donald McPherson 11, and David Quirt. Don went on to be a world figure skating champion (see Queen Street).
Choirboys and The Merry Wives of Windsor
Pupils of choirmaster Gordon Scott, St. John's United Church (see Waterloo Street), were chosen to play choirboys and wood spirits in the 1956 Stratford Festival production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, in the last year of the tent. This picture was taken before their first rehearsal. Back row, from left: Gordon Conoy 13, (co-contributor to the Streets of Stratford), Paul Wilker 13, Richard Fuhrman and Lloyd Monteith 12. Front row, from left: Hugh McCaul 9, Kenneth Boyes 11, Donald McPherson 11, and David Quirt. Don went on to be a world figure skating champion (see Queen Street).
(The story goes that the choirboys were so rambunctious that the theatre vowed never to have young boys on stage again).
* Personal note: Three actors of note in this play were William Shatner (Fenton), Bruno Gerussi (Bardolph) and Douglas Rain (Simple). Shatner, best known as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek media franchise, also did other TV and film roles, as well as brand commercials.
Gerussi played Romeo, hosted on CBC, and is fondly remembered as a beachcomber on TV. Douglas Rain was a lead actor in Stratford for more than 30 seasons, and the elegant and soothing, but sinister, voice of the computer (Hal) in the film 2001 Space Odyssey and its sequel.
* Click on YouTube video below to hear Hal .
The Port Dover and Lake Huron Railway station, Stratford's fifth, built in 1875
In 1875, Stratford's fifth railway station was built by the Port Dover and Lake Huron Railway (PD&LH), which, in the following year brought its first train to town. The depot was near the corner of Falstaff and Nile streets, where it stood until 1922, though it was little used after the Grand Trunk Railway took over the PD&LH. The station eventually became part of the Cornish company's coal yards.
Dean Robinson wrote that "when the first PD&LH train pulled into town in 1876,there was great festivity; even the GTR locomotives blew their whistles in welcome." Source: Dean Robinson, Railway Stratford Revisited
* Stratford has had six train stations. To see a map of where they were, go to Station Timeline.
Photo: Vince Gratton