Obituary: Janet Key

Janet Key, actress, born Bath 10 July 1945, married 1970 Gawn Grainger (one son, one daughter), died London 26 July 1992.

JANET KEY was an actress of particular versatility. She was a high-spirited beauty with an acerbic style and talent that were entirely her own.

At the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School under Nat Brenner and Rudi Shelley, she was a golden student in an era that produced among others Jane Lapotaire, Christopher Cazenove, Norman Eshley, Alan Dossor and Shane Connaughton. She worked extensively with, the RSC, the Bristol Old Vic, and the Royal National Theatre. She was memorable in one of the hardest of jobs - taking over in Bedroom Farce on the South Bank and in the West End in 1977 and 1978, and she stunned us all in a revealing revival of Henceforward (1990), in which she starred with her great friend Simon Ward.

She was never shy of working in the toughest of conditions - I personally remember a remarkable Hermione in The Winter's Tale at the Ludlow Festival in 1972. In the pouring rain, shrouded in a plastic bag to protect a very exotic costume, she radiated a compassionate sensuality that was incandescent. On the fringe, she dazzled in Vaclav Havel's Redevelopment at the old Orange Tree Theatre last year. In a workshop production of her husband Gawn Grainger's Vamp Till Ready (1978) at the Cottesloe Theatre she brought a special poignancy to an extraordinary play.

Janet Key was completely unsnobbish. She was intolerant of pretension, laziness or incompetence in herself or others, and, exceptionally, was blessed with a humorous knack of tactfully spotting the irritant centre of a problem, artistic, social or personal, and contributing uniquely to its solution. She was never less than a leader - this was exemplified on a gruelling tour of her friend John Dexter's productions of Julius Caesar and Creon round England and then to India in 1989.

Janet Key was always popular on television. Most recently she appeared in the Anglia Television production of Fay Weldon's Growing Rich. She starred in countless productions including State of Emergency, The Sweeney, Special Branch, Shoestring, Minder, and Big Deal. As Lady Lucan in the BBC's Into Thin Air, and with Bob Hoskins in You Don't Have To Walk To Fly, her husband's first major television play, she was unforgettable.

Janet Key never short-changed anyone in her professional or personal life. She was an enthusiast in a surprising range of areas and a ruthlessly helpful critic and adviser. Above all she was a passionately loyal wife, mother and friend. She organised her life and her work around Gawn and their children, Charlie and Eliza, her wide circle of friends, and her personal ambitions.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Recruitment Genius: HR Advisor

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader ...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us