The actor Corin Redgrave, 56, is the son of Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson; this year, he published his book Michael Redgrave, My Father. He lives in London with his wife, the actress Kika Markham. Kika is one of the four daughters of the actor David Markham and his poet wife Olive. Her screen credits include Dennis Potter's Double Dare, and A Very British Coup. She has two children by Corin Redgrave
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

CORIN REDGRAVE: Our first meeting was in 1968 in Sussex, on a documentary about the life of Edward Lear. Our paths crossed just for that day. We shared a scene with six or seven other people. I remember Kika saying between set-ups that she had been asked to audition for Oh! Calcutta - the show in which everybody takes their clothes off.

Properly speaking, we met in 1970 in a television play called, ironically, Happy Ever After, in which we were married. Our lives together are packed with the sort of coincidences that would please a Victorian novelist.

I knew of Kika's father, David, who was a wonderful actor. David and my father Michael were working together in a film called The Stars Look Down at the time my mother was pregnant with me. They filmed a scene together within days of my birth; Kika's mother Olive was knitting a shawl for me.

I'd heard that Kika was attractive and very left-wing. Kika sold newspapers to workers outside factory gates - that impressed me. Her parents were Anarchists. Kika's father was a conscientious objector during the war,and was jailed for it. It held his career back; after the war, there were people who said, "I won't work with David Markham." And Olive is one of the few who can say that she was arrested both by the Gestapo and the KGB.

We saw a lot of each other during the ten days' filming of Happy Ever After. We both played the piano; and we also had lively political debates. I ended up joining the same party she belonged to - the Socialist Labour League. For a period of time, though, we saw each other only politically.

For a long time, I used to wish I had the chance to know Kika better. I even kept a picture of her in my dressing room in the theatre. I don't think I had any idea that we would get together. I was married; she had a partner.

When we did meet, we used to tease one another in a kind of wistful way, as if we had some notion that in another life we might have got to know one another better. But life didn't seem to be presenting that alternative until six years later, in 1976, in London, in a friend's house. I looked at Kika and thought, "What have I been doing all this time, not saying something more personal, more intimate?" So I went up to her and said "I love you." She said something like, "Are you sure?"

The next day, Kika said, "What made you say that?" By the third day, we decided that we both felt the same way; it developed quickly from there.

We got married later, in 1985. We had two children by that time, and we thought it would be better for them.

I cannot think of a single bad quality Kika has. She introduced me to the pleasure of walking. I never walked in my life, never saw the reason to. I don't think I've introduced her to anything. Kika is constantly trying new things. We have a name for it, because once or twice it has ended up in near-disaster; it's called the Himatangi Beach Syn-drome. In 1977, when we'd just got together, we were driving in New Zealand. We were looking for a beach, and there were beaches all along the way. I was saying, "This one is incredible, I've never seen a beach like this." Kika kept saying, "Let's find another." We ended up in a place called Himatangi. The sand was popping with creatures that bit you, and there was some noxious-smelling outlet of effluent somewhere. It was utterly dreadful. If I want to restrain her quest for novelty, I remind Kika of that.

At the moment, we are performing in The Country Girl at Greenwich Theatre. I love watching Kika find her way through difficulties, experimenting constantly. She has a rare recklessness, which is frightening at times.

We've been together 19 years. I'm not aware that our relationship has changed much from those weeks we spent together in New Zealand. I hope Kika has changed me. I'm quite sure I would have failed her if she hadn't.

KIKA MARKHAM: I must have been looking forward to meeting Corin. We first met in Sussex - it was a programme about Edward Lear. When I saw him he was in his costume, looking handsome. I felt depressed, because I had one of those unflattering wigs with a parting in the middle. I thought, "What a disadvantage to start with. Here I am in this blue silk crinoline and curtains on either side of my forehead."

The second time was on something called Happy Ever After, where we had to get married. I had this idea that Corin would be conventional, and that we wouldn't get on - I come from a background of anarchists and rebels. He used to play a line in rather posh parts - officers in Chips With Everything, things like that. Even as an actor, you assume that because someone plays a part, they might really be like that. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

There must have been a piano in the rehearsal room - I was impressed by the way Corin played. I also felt rather pleased with myself, because we got into a political argument about Paris in 1968. I seemed to feel that I won that argument - it hasn't happened much since. Corin made me laugh a lot. Corin could quote Shakespeare, Donne, Milton at will; I didn't have an A-level to my name. We said goodbye; I remember going back on the Tube thinking to myself, "If life had been different, I might have liked to have ended up with that man."

After Happy Ever After, we would meet on political campaigns. One day, rather out of the blue, Corin told me that he loved me. In one way, it wasn't a shock, and in another it was. I went into several changes of gear and said in a prim way, "It's a bit late to say this now, isn't it, Corin?"

Nothing happened for some time. I never went out with Corin while he was still married, only afterwards. I went down to see him in the country and his children looked at me rather curiously and wondered if I was a new girlfriend. The children always came with us on walks, so we were incredibly chaperoned. We never got to hold hands or even kiss for what seemed like a long time.

Our similarities come from what happened to us when we were still children. We were both sent to boarding school and hated being away from home. Where we're opposites is that Corin likes to be the expert in all things. If we're going on a walk he'll know the names of trees and plants. It's all balderdash, in fact; he doesn't.

I hadn't thought I'd be a mother until I met Corin. It's not that partners hadn't wanted me to have children, but I'd always been rather careful not to. Perhaps I'd had a sixth sense that it wouldn't have worked out.

Through Corin, I've learnt a good deal about how to tackle a piece of work. His calmness is something that has been very helpful to me. My emotions are much more on the surface. When I first told Stephen Frears that Corin and I were going to work together, he said, "You'd better get a good lawyer." Of course, we've had bitter arguments. We were doing lines for The Country Girl and Corin was picking me up, saying: "That's not what Clifford Odets wrote. Stick to the line." Then I was hearing his lines - and one was totally different. But he said, "No, no, I think Odets is wrong here. It's better like this. For you it's better to stick to the text, but for me it isn't." Outrageous. Intellectual conceit, I suppose.

We've grown a lot closer through working together. Corin is hopeless at putting things in the washing machine or changing sheets. But in rehearsal, he'll suddenly tell me something that makes a lot of sense. And I just want to hug him. !