Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Our Time of Day

The British actor and political activist Corin Redgrave was born 80 years ago today. He kept diaries some of the time, and his second wife Kika Markham has used these, along with her own diaries, to write a memoir - Our Time of Day: My Life with Corin Redgrave. ‘With great empathy and wit,’ the publisher says, ‘Kika records their lives on and off stage - two great actors from two theatrical families.’ As it happens, I have a vague personal connection with Corin and Kika in that they first met while working on a famous 1930s film produced by my grandfather.

Redgrave was born in northwest London on 16 July 1939, to the famous actor Michael Redgrave and his actress wife Rachel Kempson. He had two sisters, Vanessa who was older, and Lynn who was younger. Michael was educated at Westminster School, and King’s College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a first in English. (Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi and Trevor Nunn were among his friends there.) He joined the Royal Court Theatre as an assistant director in 1962. That same year he married Deirdre Deline Hamilton-Hill, and they were to have two children.

Redgrave soon turned to acting, and through the 1960s appeared on stage and in films, not least in Fred Zinnemann’s Oscar-winning A Man for All Seasons. In the 1970s, acting began to take second place to his involvement in radical politics: encouraged by Vanessa, he joined the Workers’ Revolutionary Party founded by Gerry Healy. He became increasingly involved with the group as a full-time organiser; and when it split, he remained loyal to Healy and his new Marxist Party. Redgrave’s marriage had been dissolved some while earlier, and, in 1985, he married his second wife, Kika Markham, also an actress, and they had two children.

Only with the ending of the Cold War did Redgrave return wholeheartedly to acting, enjoying significant roles such as in In the Name of the Father (1993), about the wrongful imprisonment of the Guildford Four, and in the romantic comedy, Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). He also had success in the West End and on Broadway, especially with Tennessee Williams’s Not About Nightingales (receiving a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Play in 1999). In the mid-1990s, he wrote an acclaimed memoir of his father (whom he had helped with his autobiography a decade earlier) Michael Redgrave, My Father, which incorporated extracts from Michael’s diaries. Corin Redgrave was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, and in 2005 suffered a heart attack, but, nevertheless, made a triumphant return to the stage in 2007, with the one-man play Tynan, and as the lead in Trumbo in 2009. He died in 2010. Further information is available from Wikipedia, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required), or IMDB.

Like his father, Corin kept a diary, at least sometimes. I have not been able to establish how regularly he did so, or what diary material he might have left behind. However, Kika Markham in her memoir - Our Time of Day: My Life with Corin Redgrave (Oberon Books, 2014) - includes many extracts from his diary as well as from her own. Some pages can be previewed at Amazon or Googlebooks. and a review can be read at The Guardian. The publisher’s blurb states: ‘Our Time of Day was inspired by Corin’s revelation that after suffering brain damage he could remember little of his marriage - despite the fact that for over thirty happy, passionate and turbulent years he and Kika had shared their love of acting, family and left-wing politics with ceaseless energy and commitment. With great empathy and wit, Kika records their lives on and off stage - two great actors from two theatrical families. She draws upon intimate records of the thoughts and feelings that they had both expressed in personal diaries, writing with often brutal honesty. Finally she charts the poignant trajectory of Corin’s illness, from the moment he suffered a near-fatal heart attack during a speech on behalf of the Dale Farm gypsies, to severe memory loss, cancer and his eventual death from an aneurysm in the brain. Throughout these troubled years both continued acting in plays and films, as well as strenuously pursuing the human rights causes they held so dear.’

I, myself, have a distant connection with Corin and Kika. In the second paragraph of chapter one in Markham’s memoir, she explains how she knew Corin: ‘Michael Redgrave, Corin’s father, and David Markham, my father, had worked together in a film about the struggle of the miners in the 1930s: The Stars Look Down, based on the novel of the same name by A. J. Cronin.’ My grandfather, Igee Goldsmith, was the producer of that film - see my 2011 Diary Review piece on Cronin.

Here are several extracts from Corin Redgrave’s diaries as reproduced in Markham’s memoir.

9 February 1999
‘It’s an age since I wrote this diary. All my good intentions to write it at least every other day have been sabotaged by the unusually heavy workload of writing for the magazine [The Marxist].

It’s the second very long day of technical rehearsal. I have a nice spacious dressing room, with a shower and loo. When I get the chance I’ll get a divan brought in, and a fridge, and put some of our beautiful photos on the wall. They made me cry with joy, and a little bit with pain, because they make you seem so close and yet you’re so far. At night I play your “I’m beginning to miss you”, and I could swear you must be thinking of me, except I know - or I hope - you’re asleep.

My dresser, Dino, has been dressing Uta Hagen. She’s on in a play off-B’way, which will run for another three weeks. Another good reason you should hurry on over if humanly possible, to catch her while she’s still here. Dino says she’s a ‘miracle’ and I’m sure he’s right.’

28 March 2009
‘We took part in a rally in Trafalgar Square.

I read Robert Fisk.

We stood together on the platform - Kika read the diary of Zena el Khalil.

It was an honour to take part in such a dire, dreadful situation. It was important to feel that we could contribute, even in a small way.

We met Harvey and Jodie which was delightful. And Arden was there, dear Arden.’

16 June 2009
‘Lying in bed is not necessarily tiredness, but finding a way to start the day. Arden told us some wonderful news. He got a 2:2 for his degree!! BRAVO ARDEN!!!! It hasn’t been easy for him, with me being ill, and with him changing course in mid-stream. Tony Kushner came to supper. We talked a lot about writing.’

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