In this excerpt from Lynn Redgrave's latest solo play, Nightingale, the famed actress portrays her grandmother, Beatrice, writing to Lynn's mother, Rachel.
(BEATRICE is reading a letter)
Beatrice: "My dear Rachel, I'm sorry that we couldn't stay to see you last night but you took so long to get dressed after the performance and your father was very tired. We had to hurry home. You know how hard it is to find a taxi in the West End."
Eric and I went to the theatre last night to see her play Nora in "A Doll's House." By Ibsen of course. It is a revival. Rachel had a big success with it a few years ago, but she had to leave the run early because she was pregnant.
"Your interpretation was excellent. Just as good as the first time we saw you in this play."
Backstage to see her. Her dresser opens the door.
"Lady Redgrave will be with you in a few minutes."
Lady Redgrave! Will keep us waiting? Keep her parents waiting?
"You always speak so clearly. We could hear every word."
Lady Redgrave. So strange to hear her called that. To remember that little pinched face, the little sticky hands clinging to my dress. Now a Lady. A married woman. A star.
"We also thought your dancing was very graceful. Well done."
There is a scene in the play where Nora dances for her husband Helmer. She picks up a tambourine and dances, dances wildly across the stage. Her husband directs her, telling her what to do. But she pays no heed, and he says something like "You are dancing as if your life depended on it."
And she, Nora says, "So it does"! Eric clutched my arm during that scene. I turned to him.
“What is it?”
He had tears in his eyes.
“She’s wonderful isn’t she?” Yes, Daddy’s girl.
"Daddy particularly liked the scene with the tambourine. Is that the same dress you wore in the last production?”
She has what she wants; she dances madly through this glorious life of hers. She has that handsome husband Michael, though I don’t like him very much and I know he doesn’t like me..
"We didn’t see Michael last night. I thought you said he would be there."
As I watched her on stage I felt this wave of jealousy. Yes, jealousy. What a terrible thing to be jealous of your own daughter. But she has everything. She is fulfilled. "It was a pleasant surprise to see your good friend Glen Byam Shaw again. He greeted us in the foyer when we arrived and arranged for our interval drinks."
As I sipped my sherry, and Eric studied the programme, I heard people going on and on about her performance.
"Daddy and I thought the production was very smooth and we liked the new drawing room setting."
She has money and position..a famous knighted husband..and yes, she is a wonderful actress. Eric didn’t want to leave.
"Beatrice we must wait to see her, we needn’t hurry home, I want to see her. No. She is taking far too long. We will never get a taxi. We have to go."
In closing, I would just like to say thank you for the tickets. We were right in the middle of the dress circle. The man at the box office said Michael wanted to give them to us, so we didn’t have to pay. How wonderful it must be to be made of money. Please thank him for us.
Published on November 20, 2009