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