Stage icon Dame Janet Suzman makes a powerful return to theatres this month in Rose, Martin Sherman’s enduring one-actor show chronicling the story of a century through the eyes of its eponymous leading lady. With an enviable career both on-screen and off, there’s likely quite a bit you don’t know about the star of our latest production. For example, did you know that Dame Janet Suzman…
Was born in South Africa?
Dame Janet was born in Johannesburg and studied there during the height of the Apartheid before relocating to England in 1959 to pursue a career in drama. She’s the niece of the South African liberal politician Helen Suzman who was an activist and vocal anti-Apartheid campaigner. This link to political activism in Suzman’s personal life is something that has also found its way into her professional work, with her performance in 1989’s A Dry White Season alongside Donald Sutherland and Marlon Brando looking closely at this very issue.
Started her career in Manchester?
While her work may have taken her across the globe, it was here in Manchester were Suzman got her start starring alongside Patrick Stewart in a trio of productions at The Library Theatre in 1962. With roles in Twelfth Night, The Buried Man and Strip The Willow, it wasn’t long before Suzman was recruited by the Royal Shakespeare Company where she went on to tackle a number of classic Bard characters like Rosalind in As You Like It and Hamlet’s Ophelia.
Was nominated for an Academy Award?
Having secured a strong reputation on the stage, Suzman soon made a leap to the screen starring in a number of TV renditions of classic texts. She impressed with more Shakespeare in The War of the Roses and starred as Delphine in Arnold Bennett’s Lord Raingo but it was her turn as Alexandra in Franklin J. Shaffner’s adaptation of Nicholas and Alexandra that grabbed the attention of the Academy and earned her a nomination for the Best Actress Oscar in 1971.
Has directed classic texts?
Stepping out of the spotlight, Suzman made her directorial debut in 1987 with a controversial production of Othello at The Market Theatre in Johannesburg. With the equity ban on working in the Apartheid regime at its peak, Suzman’s first foray into directing put her on the map as a theatre maker unafraid to shake things up. Since then, her other notable projects have included Death of a Salesman in 1992, and directing Kim Cattrall in the title role she herself had once played in Antony and Cleopatra at The Liverpool Playhouse in 2010.
*With thanks to the Archives & Local History Department, Manchester Central Library.
Rose is showing from Thu 25 May – Sat 10 Jun. Find out more and book tickets here.
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