Obituary: Janet Key
Thursday 30 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.
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