‘To­tal cru­elty’

TV Times - - Interview - Drama Man in an Or­ange Shirt Mon­day / bbc2 / 9.00PM Nick can­non

Vanessa Red­grave on the in­jus­tice be­hind her emo­tional new drama

Leg­endary ac­tor Vanessa Red­grave and The Par­adise’s Joanna Van­der­ham were on fa­mil­iar ground when they were film­ing BBC2’S new drama, Man in an Or­ange Shirt.

They play the same woman in two dif­fer­ent eras, as they did in the 2015 BBC drama, The Go-be­tween.

In the two-part story, part of the BBC’S Gay Bri­tan­nia sea­son, Joanna plays young Flora who, at the end of World War Two, mar­ries army cap­tain Michael (Oliver Jack­son Co­hen), who she dis­cov­ers is hav­ing an af­fair with artist Thomas (James Mcar­dle). It leads to a life­time of un­hap­pi­ness and re­sent­ment, which comes to a head when an old Flora (Vanessa) finds out her grand­son is also gay.

Here, Vanessa, 80, tells us more about Flora and why the drama has an im­por­tant mes­sage about love...

I had to start off by think­ing Flora wasn’t a brusque and dif­fi­cult woman… But in­stead some­one who is nice in her own way. Older Flora feels ev­ery­thing so deeply af­ter all that’s hap­pened to her.

There’s a great line in the drama… My Flora says, ‘You can’t turn me into a lib­eral overnight.’ She’s had to fab­ri­cate things her whole life and cre­ate a whole de­nial sys­tem, be­cause of her hus­band and his feel­ings for an­other man. All this has built through her life and made her into the woman we see in the drama.

My fa­ther [The Dam Busters ac­tor Michael Red­grave] was bi­sex­ual… As were a lot of his friends, and some, of course, were gay. I’m sure there were plenty of les­bians around too. But in that era, to pro­tect them­selves, they al­ways pro­tected each other, which is so in­ter­est­ing.

Back then, we called our­selves a democ­racy even though ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity was il­le­gal… It was to­tal cru­elty. Ev­ery­thing we are is not to be de­fined and cat­e­gorised.

I’ve watched the drama now… The script, cin­e­matog­ra­phy, edit­ing and all the per­for­mances have left me ab­so­lutely amazed. It’s re­ally su­perb work with a strong mes­sage.

Haunted by the past: Vanessa as Flora

Vanessa with her dad, michael

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