David Lister: Redgrave was versatile, vivacious and under-rated
Tuesday 04 May 2010
The line from Hamlet that "when sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions" must be haunting the Redgrave family. Vanessa Redgrave, who has lost her daughter and her brother, has had to face within a year the loss of her daughter, brother and now sister.
Lynn Redgrave was in many ways the most interesting, and most underrated of the acting dynasty. In the sixties she was integral part of Laurence Olivier's National Theatre, a stellar company that she was later to cherish and affectionately satirise in a one-woman show.
After her move to America she became less well-known here, too much of her notoriety stemming from a painful private life which culminated in divorce after her husband, the actor John Clark, revealed he had fathered a child with their daughter-in-law. But the Lynn Redgrave I got to know through two lengthy interviews was vivacious, charismatic and a campaigner on health and women's issues with a quiet effectiveness.
She told me how, as the youngest of the three siblings, she tended to be ignored as a child by Vanessa and Corin and made her own world in her imagination. "Corin is the brain, Vanessa is the shining star, oh and then there's Lynn," she said relatively recently.
When Lynn and Vanessa acted together on the West End stage in 1991 in Three Sisters they went out to dinner to discuss the production. Only halfway through the meal did they realise it was the first time they had ever been out for a meal together. Unfortunately, the late blossoming closeness was nearly cut short by arguments over the Gulf War.
Lynn had a personality so welcoming, fresh and charming that it stood out in a family that could be suspicious of outsiders. Despite both Oscar and Tony nominations, recognition of her as an extraordinarily versatile actress is overdue.
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