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Acting dynasties: There's no business like family business

The Redgraves have rivals in the latest batch of offspring to follow their parents

Overqualified and under-employed – that is the lot of most young actors. But not if mummy or daddy is already treading the boards. Meet the new generation of me-toos following their parents on to the stage, and in some cases starring alongside them. While in other professions it might be called nepotism, in theatrical circles, the correct term is "acting dynasty", a phrase traditionally seen next to the name Redgrave or Fox.

In these straitened times, luvvies are keeping it in the family, with theatres enjoying an unusually high rate of cosy casting. At last summer's Edinburgh Festival, the veteran actor Art Malik starred alongside his daughter Keira in a production of Hywel John's play Rose, though they played an estranged father and daughter. The rising star Edward Stoppard thought nothing of taking a part in Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, better known to Ed as Dad.

That said, British theatre clans can't compete in size and scale with the American Barrymore family. Drew Barrymore is only the latest in a line stretching back to the 1870s, in which almost every family member has gone into the trade. This has led some to name them the "Royal Family" of acting, though probably because they've had as many dramas off stage as on.

Mary Nighy

Daughter of Bill Nighy and Diana Quick

At 27, Mary Bing Jamie Alfreda Leonora Quick Kit Nighy has achieved in only a few years what most might hope for in a lifetime. Graduating with first-class honours in English from University College London, Nighy was quick to gather dozens of acting credits to her name, including the 2006 Sofia Coppola film Marie Antoinette. Not content with performing, she is now director of her own film company, Foster Films, and is currently directing Shallow Slumber, about the lives of social workers, at the Soho Theatre. But her parents were anxious about her starting her career too early, denying her access to an agent until the ripe old age of 18.


Emily Glenister

Daughter of Robert Glenister and Amanda Redman

Making her stage debut this weekend in Bloody Poetry, a play about Percy and Mary Shelley, Emily Glenister, 24, has acting in her bones: she's the daughter of Amanda Redman and Hustle star Robert Glenister, her uncle is Life on Mars actor Philip Glenister, and her grandfather is Rumpole of the Bailey director John Glenister. After toying with the idea of becoming a policewoman or a journalist, she caved in to train at her mother's alma mater, Bristol Old Vic, and appeared on television with her in New Tricks. However, she denies charges of nepotism, saying there were many others up for the role, and that she got it on her own merit. We believe you, love, even if many wouldn't.



Freddie Fox

Son of Edward Fox and Joanna David

With Freddie now the fourth generation of Foxes on stage, maybe hunting people are right to call them a pest. Due to star in Noël Coward's Hay Fever next week, 22-year-old Freddie not only has actors for parents but a sister too, Emilia Fox. So who can blame him for sleepwalking into acting, though he had flirted with becoming a barrister. His cheekbones and debonair dress sense would have been wasted on the Bar, and helped land him an early role as a drag queen – rather different from the assassin played by his father in Day of the Jackal.



Ed Stoppard

Son of Tom Stoppard and Miriam Stoppard

The similarities in looks to his writer-father at his age are uncanny. But so worried was 37-year-old Ed about accusations of nepotism when at drama school that he considered changing his name to his father's original Czech surname of Straussler. He persuaded himself that Stoppard wasn't so bad, and even accepted a part in Dad's 1993 work Arcadia. His mother is the agony aunt Miriam Stoppard. He is due to appear in François Archambault's The Leisure Society next month with supermodel Agyness Deyn, who is making her acting debut.



William Postlethwaite

Son of the late Pete Postlethwaite

Graduating from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts only last summer, the young William Postlethwaite has wasted no time in following in his father's footsteps. After performing in As You Like It at the Manchester Royal Exchange last summer, he made his London stage debut at the National Theatre and is receiving positive reviews for his role as Grigory in Collaborators, a new play by John Hodge. He is not reported to have had any qualms about being called Postlethwaite.