In her one-woman show, which opened to a modestly sized audience Sunday, Lynn Redgrave offers an exceedingly honest, often painful, behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to grow up as the daughter of Sir Michael Redgrave. It is an intimate portrait that is part homage and part psychodrama, all cleverly interwoven with scenes from Shakespeare’s plays.
Working on a sparsely set stage, the skilled actress uses her own words, as well as those of Shakespeare’s characters, to explore the emotional entanglement of her family tree (an impressive lineage that now includes five generations who have devoted their lives to the actor’s life).
Shortly into this autobiographical monologue — conceived and written by Redgrave and staged with ease and precision by her husband, John Clark — it becomes clear that the actress is out to confront demons that have dominated her life. And the chief demon was her father, whose projected image, as a young and virile Marc Antony, hovers ever present in the background, like some ghostly icon.
Redgrave makes clever use of Shakespeare’s characters to provide amplification of her own experiences. In the blink of an eye she transforms herself into a giddy young Juliet, a plaintive Cordelia or a bereft Cleopatra. The process provides a fascinating interaction of onstage and offstage reality.
The self-portrait depicts a desperately lonely child, dominated by the figure of an absentee father — a young girl beset with deep feelings of inferiority, feelings that persisted up to her father’s funeral in March 1985.
She describes herself as a divided entity: shy on the outside, filled with imagination on the inside.
In the end, this meandering path of anecdote and soliloquy leads to a form of reconciliation, in which the young girl, now a woman, can look up at the projected image of her father and see him for what he was: A man who could not fathom the role of father, but found the greatness in himself through his roles. He was first and last, an actor.