Tuesday 6 April 2010

A great loss

I was very sorry to hear about Corin Redgrave's death. Despite being an integral part ofThe Family he was still quite a one-off.

I first became aware of him through his politcal work. In the maelstrom of 1980s left wing politics he was the great star of Gerry Healy's Workers Revolutionary Party. His sister Vanessa brought glamour to the socialist drudgery of paper sales in the rain, threadbare demonstrations and endless factional meetings. But she continued with her acting career so always had an excuse to forgo comradely duties. Corin however brought true revolutionary commitment. He gave-up his dynastic duties on the stage, and no doubt a lucrative film career as well, for a life of political activism. He was a Trotskyite hero. If Corin beleived the revolution was iminent who were the rest of us to argue. I imagined him as National Commisar for the Arts in Britain's first Revolutionary People's Government.

The revolution still hasn't happened.  Later on in the 80s the WRP fractured into a variety of doctrinal shards (Trots always prefer arguing among themselves to actual revoltuion which involves practicalities like compromise and action). Gerry Healy it seemed was a sex pest and Corin -- rather quietly -- returned to the stage. That was where I next came across him. Unexpectedly. Me and a friend had got last minute tickets to the Young Vic to see Rosmesholm. We rushed in a minute before the non curtain went up. I didn't check anything just tried to marshall my limited knowledge of Ibsen. The play started and worked well in the YV's intimate round. Then Rosmer came on and something happened that I had rarely if ever seen on stage. All the cliches about electricity charged to life in megawatts. This unknown -- to me -- actor had remarkable presence. I almost wished away the first half desperate to get my hands on a programme to see who he was.

 When I found out it was CR I felt a bit silly. But I shouldn't have. He had no television presence then and in his previous life he was little seen outside the WRP inner circle. He preferred, like a good revolutionary, to build a reputation in the shadows rather than centre stage. I wished the second half of Rosmesholm could last forever. I was only a few feet away from genius. It proved that centre stage was where Corin really belonged.   

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