Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Remembering Corin Redgrave

It was with sadness that I learned of the death of Corin Redgrave who I had the privilege of working with in what was to be the last year of his life. He took part in two readings of The Trainer, acting alongside Tim Pigott-Smith, Janie Dee, Paul Herzberg and Jana Zeineddine in a play co-written by David Wilson and me. The Trainer is a play about a love affair between an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian law student and includes a court case about an opera. It was staged to raise money for the rebuilding of the Gaza Music School. (For a slideshow of more of Guy Smallman’s photos, click here). Despite being unwell, Corin played his role of Oliver Higdon-Brown to perfection, giving a fabulous performance as a pompous High Court judge.

The readings took place in 2009 at Oxford House and the Hackney Empire. It was not easy for him to get from South London to Bethnal Green and Hackney, but with support from his wife, the actress Kika Markham, Corin was determined to help the cause. Because of his huge reputation, I was nervous about working with him, but I needn’t have been. The man who had played major roles at the RSC and National and starred in movies and TV gave attention and care to his performance in The Trainer. He was a consummate professional: courteous and enthusiastic and put everyone involved with the benefit at their ease.

For many years, his acting took second place to his deeply-held political beliefs. As a Shakespearean actor, I’ll bet he loved these lines from Richard III:

     And thus I clothe my naked villany
     With odd old ends stol'n out of holy writ,
     And seem a saint, when most I play the devi
l.

In exposing the villainy of those devils in power, he disappeared from the stage for many years. In 2005 he suffered a heart attack while campaigning for Roma rights. After a period of recuperation, he returned to the theatre as Oscar Wilde in De Profundis. He had been weakened, but he never gave up. I last saw him at the Jermyn Street Theatre performing letters of the blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo. The show opened on the night news broke of his niece Natasha Richardson’s tragic death.

He was a sweet bear of a man, a humanitarian who loved the world. He will be sorely missed by his public, as well as by his family and friends. The words on the oldest known pyramid are these: ‘The doors of the sky are thrown open for you.’ Corin, travel well.

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