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Janet Suzman (born 9 February 1939) is a South African actress and director.

Early life

Suzman was born in Johannesburgmarker to a Jewish family, the daughter of Betty (née Sonnenberg) and Saul Suzman, a wealthy importer of tobacco. Her grandfather, Max Sonnenberg, was a member of the South African parliament, and she is also a niece of civil rights/anti-apartheid campaigner, Helen Suzman. Suzman was educated at the independent school Kingsmead Collegemarker in Johannesburgmarker, and at the University of the Witwatersrandmarker where she studied English and French. She moved to Londonmarker in 1959.

Career

After training for the stage at LAMDAmarker, Suzman made her debut as Liz in Billy Liar at the Tower Theatre, Ipswichmarker in 1962. She then became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1963 and started her career there as Joan of Arc in The Wars of the Roses (1962-64). The RSC gave her the opportunity to play many of the Shakespearean heroines, including Rosaline in Love's Labour's Lost, Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Ophelia in Hamlet, Kate in The Taming of the Shrew, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, Celia and Rosalind in As You Like It, Lavinia in Titus Andronicus and her Cleopatra, magisterial, ardent and seductive, in 1973, about which critics raved, and which is said to be a definitive performance. Her Cleopatra was captured on film. Although her stage appearances tended to run naturally towards Shakespeare and the classics, including Ibsens Hedda Gabler, Chekhov's The Three Sisters, Marlowe, Racine, Gorky, Brecht, she has also appeared in plays by Genet, Pinter, Ronald Harwood, Nicholson, Albee and others.

Films and TV

She appeared in many Britishmarker television drama productions in the 1960s and early 1970s, including Saint Joan (1968), Three Sisters (1969), Macbeth (1970), Hedda Gabler (1972), Twelfth Night (1973), Lord Mountbatten - The Last Viceroy, as Lady Mountbatten (1985) and Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective (1986). Her first film role was in 1971, in Nicholas and Alexandra, and she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, the BAFTA and the Golden Globe for her portrayal of the Empress Alexandra. This was followed by A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972) opposite Alan Bates. There is also a filmed record of her Cleopatra in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra with Richard Johnson as Antony.

She has made few films since, the best-known being Don Siegel's The Black Windmill (1974), Nijinsky (1980), Peter Greenaway's The Draughtsman's Contract (1982), A Dry White Season (1989) with Marlon Brando, Federico Fellini's E la Nave Va (1983), Nuns on the Run (1990), a rare comedy performance.

Later years

Back in her native South Africa, she has directed Othello, which was also televised, and Brecht's The Good Woman of Setzuan (renamed The Good Woman of Sharpevillemarker) both at the Market Theatremarker, Johannesburg. She has also recently toured her modern adaptation of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard - a South African response entitled The Free State. She wrote, starred in and directed this piece with the Birmingham Repertory Theatremarker. Other productions with Suzman as director include A Dream of People at the RSC, The Cruel Grasp at the Edinburgh Festival, Feydeau's No Flies on Mr Hunter (Chelsea Centre, 1992); Death of a Salesman (Theatr Clywdmarker, 1993); and Pam Gems's The Snow Palace (Tour and Tricycle Theatre, 1998).

Recent activities

In 2002, she returned to the RSC to perform in a new version of The Hollow Crown with Donald Sinden, Ian Richardson and Derek Jacobi. In 2005, she appeared in the West Endmarker in a revival of Brian Clark's 1978 play Whose Life Is It Anyway? starring Kim Cattrall. In 2006, she directed Hamlet and in 2007, she played Volumnia in Coriolanus in Stratford-upon-Avonmarker. Again the critics raved, noting there are too few stage appearances by this fine actress. It was obvious she is still a talent with which to reckon.

Suzman is the author of Acting With Shakespeare: Three Comedies, a book based on a series of acting master classes.

She holds Honorary D.Litt. degrees from the Universities of Warwickmarker, Leicestermarker, London marker, Southamptonmarker, Middlesex and Kingstonmarker.

Her marriage (1969) to director Trevor Nunn, which ended in divorce (1986), was a famous theatrical alliance.

See also



References

  1. http://www.filmreference.com/film/34/Janet-Suzman.html
  2. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/article708840.ece?token=null&offset=0
  3. http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/participant.jsp?spid=187326
  4. http://www.theherald.co.uk/features/featuresopinon/display.var.2479176.0.Courage_and_wit_that_faced_down_apartheid.php

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