Anyone with an abiding interest in B.C. theatre knows the name Antony Holland, long-time mentor at the Studio 58 theatre program at Langara until he took mandatory retirement at age 65 in 1985.

Still-vigorous as an actor at age 91, Holland is the subject of James Hawkins' admiring biography Antony's Private Parts (Gabriola: Bliss Publications, unpriced). With a cover image angled more towards Benny Hill than King Lear, the contents nonetheless verify Holland has had a prodigious career since the 1930s, on stage and on screen, from his beloved Shakespeare to Alan Aykbourn.

Holland merits equal veneration for inspiring the theatrical careers of hundreds of actors, so it's a pity his twenty years as Artistic Director at Studio 58 are given short shrift. We learn Holland chose the name Studio 58 simply because it was the room number. There is little information about his many gifted students who could have constituted a wide readership for this book.

Replete with fictitious letters ostensibly from Holland to his loved ones and friends ("I thought Bette Davis was the Queen, but Katharine Hepburn was an absolute Goddess.";), this memoir-like biography offers tales of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company, formed in 1945, out of the Theatre Royal Bristol, and the oldest working theatre in Great Britain, as well as brushes with Hollywood royalty.

"True to his Stanislavski principles,"; as Hawkins puts it, Holland was never averse to forming abiding friendships with beautiful women, creating many dramas in his off-stage. Not surprisingly, we learn "Antony consistently drove his first wife mad by his refusal to get a 'real job.'"; Still a would-be ladies man, Holland's great love appears to be the theatre itself.

At less than 200 pages, lacking an index, and with a limited run of 200 copies, privately published Antony's Private Parts scratches the surface of someone who deserves the adjective great more than grey.

978-0-9877852-0-6 hc / 978-0-9877852-1-3 sc

PHOTO: Antony Holland playing Lear.

[BCBW 2012]