Sunday, January 3, 2010



by Chuck Graham

The attraction of family holds Lynn Redgrave in its iron grip. She has always been fascinated by parent-child relationships, wanting to explore just how strong those bonds can be and how the experience of living these roles for a lifetime will shape the people who play the parts that strengthen the bonds that shape the people...

Being the third sibling in one of the theater world’s most distinguished families gives Lynn Redgrave plenty to work with. She comes to Tucson Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 16-17, to present another of her one-woman shows, “Rachel and Juliet,” about her mother, the actress Rachel Kempson. Both performances are presented by the Invisible Theatre in the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd.

Although everyone agreed Kempson was quite talented, the best known of Lynn’s family members are her distinguished father Michael Redgrave and her sister Vanessa. Lynn and Vanessa's elder brother, Corin, performs mostly on the English stage.

Lynn recently told the Washington Post her mother was a funny and perceptive woman, but was also afflicted with self-doubt.

'She (Kempson) suffered from her lack of security, making room for my father's career,' said Lynn. Perhaps being so selfless herself led Kempson to identify so strongly with the romantic idealism of young Juliet. In her early 20s in the 1930s, Kempson made a famous debut playing Juliet at Stratford-upon-Avon. Throughout her life she returned to Shakespeare's most famous ingenue for inspiration,

'Even in her 80's she would perform pieces of Juliet,' said Lynn. At age 90, Kempson recited one of Juliet's speeches at the wedding for one of Lynn's three children.

As Lynn grew up in the family of England’s most revered Shakespearian actor, the girl always wondered where she stood on the list of subjects that were most important to her dad. Lynn always knew she wasn’t number one.

Those bittersweet experiences were recalled in writing and performing the Tony Award-nominanted “Shakespeare For My Father” in the 1990s, her onstage accounting of that lifetime relationship, described by theater critics as both “poignant and painful.”

Lynn agrees writing that play, and her other family plays, has had therapeutic value.She also wrote “The Mandrake Root,” only loosely based on her mother, and “Nightingale,” a work that's largely fiction inspired by her maternal grandmother Beatrice Kempson.

“I don’t know if I’m the family historian, but I’ve always had a steel-trap memory. I remember stuff,” said Lynn cheerily, on the phone from her Connecticut home. “I’ve just always had that.

“I think of my mind being like a magpie’s nest, the way magpies keep shiny objects in their nests. There are all these moments I’ve stolen from my childhood and stored away, then they suddenly pop out.

“I can be really surprised at what pops out. Sometimes I’ll ask my sister Vanessa about something from our childhood and she won’t remember it at all.

“Rachel and Juliet” has become the companion piece to 'Shakespeare for My Father,' Lynn’s tribute to her mom -- a talented woman who many felt could have had a more prominent theater career if she hadn’t been content to let her husband hold forth at center stage, instead. Interwoven into the play are Lynn's remembrances, Kempson’s own words (“The play is totally based on fact.”) and passages from Shakespeare.

Invisible Theatre brings Lynn Redgrave with her one-woman play 'Rachel and Juliet' to the Berger Performing Arts Center for performances at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17. All tickets for both performances are $42, with discounts for groups of 10 or more. For details and reservations, 882-9721, or visit