Fringe Box



Parke’s People No.7: Sir Michael Redgrave

Published on: 6 Jul, 2012
Updated on: 6 Jul, 2012

The young Michael Redgrave.

In the latest of an occasional series about people who have a connection with Guildford in one way or another, Bernard Parke recalls actor Sir Michael Redgrave.

Sir Michael Redgrave

The former St Nicolas Hall, more recently the Bellairs Playhouse, in Millmead has been a launch pad for many well-known actors.

The hall was once the home of the Guildford Repertory Theatre, founded by Claud Powell and Dorothy Owen in 1932. It was used as such until it was requisitioned for the war effort in 1941.

Perhaps the most well known thespian to have trod the board at the Guildford Repertory Theatre was Sir Michael Redgrave. At the time he was teaching modern languages at Cranleigh School. While there, he and he pupils produced many Shakespearian plays.

He left Cranleigh School in 1934 to become a professional actor at the Liverpool Playhouse. He then joined the Liverpool Repertory Company where he met his future wife, Rachel Kempson.

Sir Michael’s first professional appearance in London was at The Old Vic in 1936.

From there his popularity went from strength to strength. However, it was put on hold while he served as an ordinary seaman on HMS Illustrious in 1942.

His naval career was short lived however due to a health problem.

The former St Nicolas Hall building, more recently Bellairs Playhouse and used by the Guildford School of Acting. It is where the young Michael Redgrave trod the boards when it was used as the Guildford Repertory Theatre. It is due to be converted into apartments.

Sir Michael returned to Guildford in 1965 to direct the opening festival at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, where once again he met up with his old friends from the 1930s.

In later years he fell victim to Parkinson disease which slowed down his career. This lead to his death in 1985 at the age of 77.

He is still remembered in Guildford by the opening of The Redgrave Studio at Guildford School of Acting’s new building at the University of Surrey.

Other well-known names who first trod the boards in Guildford include Wilfred Bramble (Steptoe & Son), Peter Sallis (Last of the Summer Wine), Kenneth Williams, Patricia Routledge, Frank Finlay and Edward Woodward, to mention but a few.

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