Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Devil is a Woman


Here's the fine scottish actress Siobhan Redmond as Mephistopheles in a production of Marlowe's Dr Faustus, currently running at the Glasgow’s Citizen’s Theatre.

Image © Glasgow Citizens' Theatre

What wonderful casting! I've been a huge admirer of hers since she appeared as Lucy McGinty, Don Henderson's droll sidekick in the 1980s television drama Bulman. That was over thirty years ago and she seems barely to have aged a day since. She's a marvellous actress, always thoughtful and always a good listener She's often described as 'steely' and I suppose this is because, as a strong, intelligent and independent woman she tends to play strong, intelligent, independent women. She is always and clearly herself and in life (one gets the impression) doesn't suffer fools at all, let alone gladly. She has a naturally dramatic look, and knows how to use bright red lipstick. 

We once fell into conversation one afternoon outside the National Film Theatre after a screening of Raoul Walsh's White Heat. This would be over twenty-five years ago and I expect, what with her busy career and everything, she may quite possibly have forgotten our brief encounter by now. I've also forgotten what we talked about (although we shared an admiration for Cagney's acting), but I can clearly remember her hair and smile, which were both very impressive, and her voice, which was very attractive. She was then and is now quite strikingly beautiful, and not in any commodifiable way - she could never be the face of L'Oreal, for instance, and film producers who favour Keira Knightley or Gwyneth Paltrow are unlikely to form a rowdy queue. Unlike gurning Keira and peaky Gwyneth, however, she can act her socks off. She moves well, and has a marvellous way of looking utterly haggard and woebegone, then suddenly blazing back into life. She's done some very good theatre over the years - House of Bernardo Alba, Shakespeare and so on, not to mention lots of telly, from cop dramas to comedy, none of which I've seen. Not much in the way of films - was she ever in a Harry Potter? She'd make a terrific witch. She's keeping afloat, I think. I just wish she'd work more in London theatres.

Despite a degree of fame (not the same thing as celebrity) she maintains a Garbo-like privacy. I know very little about her and she has a low profile on the internet. Her private life is refreshingly low-key, or non-existent and in an age of trashy and talentless celebs that's a welcome change. She's a hard working and (I imagine) essentially good person. I'd be interested to see what she makes of Mephistopheles - not a role traditionally played by women, although I seem to remember that Shelley Winters played Lucifer in a 1970s horror film. Redmond's casting offers many intriguing opportunities - not least for the costume designer, who, it seems, has ransacked my dreams for ideas:

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