Yeo, Leslie James
Leslie James Yeo, actor, producer, writer, director (b at Swindon, Wiltshire, UK 29 May 1915, d at Toronto 15 Sept 2006). Leslie Yeo left school early to work in advertising. He pursued an interest in drama, first with amateur groups and then as a young man in England before World War II, moving from the amateur to the professional repertory system. Following service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) (1941-46), he returned to the theatre. In 1947 he was invited by John Gabriel of the Birmingham Alexandra Theatre to join the Alexandra Company, then contracted to perform in St John's, Newfoundland, for the 1947-48 winter season. This marked the beginning of professional repertory theatre in Newfoundland and resulted in the subsequent immigration of Yeo to Canada.
Following the Alexandra Company season, Yeo returned to the UK determined to establish a company he could tour to Newfoundland. In 1951, the London Theatre Company arrived in St John's and performed over 25 productions in a school hall from October to April. Over the next 6 years, the London Theatre Company staged over 100 productions with 84 actors, 24 of whom remained in Canada to continue their professional careers. But in 1955 television arrived in Newfoundland - and the close of the 1957 season also marked the end of the London Theatre Company.
Yeo relocated to Ontario with his wife, long-time London Theatre Company actor Hilary Vernon. There he worked for the Strand Electric Company (1957-61) and directed Industrial Dealer shows, musicals and conventions across North America. He also performed at the MANITOBA THEATRE CENTRE, ROYAL ALEXANDRA THEATRE, VANCOUVER PLAYHOUSE THEATRE, NEPTUNE THEATRE, SHAW FESTIVAL and STRATFORD FESTIVAL, among other companies, and acted in film and television. His directorial credits are numerous and he served as artistic director for the Shaw Festival in 1979.
Yeo's legacy to Canadian theatre is substantial. As an actor/producer he established the first professional theatre company in Newfoundland and introduced several British actors to the province, many of whom stayed to establish significant careers. He has worked in all the major theatres in the country. In 1998 Mosaic Press published A Thousand and One First Nights, Yeo's record of the London Theatre Company. With the publication of this witty, at times rueful, personal history of the creation and running of this company a significant period in Canadian theatre history has been preserved.