Thanks to grants of £153,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £50,000 from the Friends of the National Libraries, the Museum acquired the archive of the late Sir Michael Redgrave, patriarch of three generations (and counting) of great actors on the British stage.
The exhibition that draws on it uses the family story and their theatre work to illuminate the social and political history of the time from great-grandfather Cornelius (a Covent Garden ticket tout in the 19th century, who would sell tickets for Drury Lane and Covent Garden from his tobacco shop in Long Acre!) to the generations of Vanessa Redgrave, Lynn Redgrave and Corin Redgrave (pictured) and their children.
There are always one or more Redgraves constantly on stage on Broadway or in the West End at any one time, it seems: both Vanessa and Lynn are currently starring in Long Day's Journey into Night and Alan Bennett's Talking Heads respectively in New York, while Vanessa's daughter Natasha Richardson has just finished a London run in Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea at the Almeida.
Sir Michael's parents, too, were theatrical: his parents Margaret Scudamore and Roy Redgrave toured melodrama and bushranger theatres across Australia. In the 30s, Michael began his own career in repertory theatre at Liverpool Playhouse, where his leading lady was Rachel Kempson - and would later become his wife and mother to Vanessa, Lynn and Corin. Vanessa, too, would begin her acting career in rep - working a summer season at Frinton-on-Sea in 1957, while in the 1980s, Natasha would start off acting at Leeds Playhouse.
Admission to the Theatre Museum, located in Russell Street around the corner from the Royal Opera House, is free; opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm (with last admissions at 5.30pm).
- By Mark Shenton