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London, Tuesday, June 10, 2003

[How they do it]

Tony rehabilitates Vanessa Redgrave

from Nicholas Wapshott in New York

VANESSA REDGRAVE has swept back into the affections of New York's theatre community after decades in the cold, winning best actress in the Tony awards. The prize for her performance as Mary Tyrone in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night marks an end to nearly 30 years of antipathy over her embrace of the Palestinian cause.

Redgrave, 66, made no reference to her years in the wilderness when she accepted her first Tony on Sunday night.

As her sister, Lynn, dabbed away tears, Redgrave pointedly paid tribute to the producers who funded the revival and to her American colleagues. "I want to thank the American actors and dancers and singers who I saw in 1956 and blew my mind and made me know what theatre could be and should be about," she said.

The former Revolutionary Workers' Party parliamentary candidate sold her house in 1977 to fund The Palestinian, a documentary favourable to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. The film provoked a group of Hollywood pro-Israelis to campaign against her being awarded the best actress Oscar for the film Julia the following year. She won anyway. At the Oscars ceremony, against a background of booing, Redgrave said: "I think you should be very proud that in the last few weeks you have stood firm and you have refused to be intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behaviour is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and to their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression."

The Boston Symphony Orchestra cancelled her contract to narrate Igor Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex, and Redgrave sued for $100,000 (£60,000) "for loss of future professional opportunities". She was ultimately awarded $12,000.

Redgrave was taken aback by the virulence of the opposition to her views and the boycott of her talents. "I thought the more prestige you get, I'd have the power to do what I like. It's not true," she said. Her attempt to make amends by playing a Jewish concentration camp victim in Playing For Time two years later did little to ease the hatred.

Redgrave beat three other British actresses to this year's best actress award: Jayne Atkinson, for Enchanted April, Victoria Hamilton, for A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, and Claire Higgins, for Vincent in Brixton, along with the Irish actress Fiona Shaw, for Medea.



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