Dame Janet Suzman


The career of actress, director, and writer Dame Janet Suzman began in 1962, when she starred in Billy Liar, joining the Royal Shakespeare Company a year later and playing a wealth of Shakespeare's leading female roles.

In a career spanning five decades, she has played almost the full list of Shakespeare's female leads, including Kate in The Taming of the Shrew, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, and Ophelia in Hamlet, as well as having directed adaptations of Othello and The Cherry Orchard. The Johannesburg, South Africa-born actress and niece of the anti-apartheid activist Helen Suzman was also nominated for an Academy Award for her first film lead in the 1971 film Nicholas and Alexandra.

After graduating from the University of the Witwatersrand and studying for the stage at LAMDA, Janet Suzman started her career in the United Kingdom with the Royal Shakespeare Company's blockbuster opening season production, The Wars of the Roses, at Stratford-upon-Avon. Roles as Portia, Rosalind, Katharina, Beatrice, Lavinia, and Cleopatra followed. In London and elsewhere, over the years she has played in works by Goldsmith, Genet, Fugard, Chekhov, Pinter, Harwood, Albee, Brecht, Racine, Marlowe, Wasserstein, Nicholson, and Ibsen. Her television and film credits include The Singing Detective, The Clayhanger Trilogy, The Draughtsman's Contract, Nicholas and Alexandra, Fellini's E La Nave Va, A Dry White Season, and Mountbatten of India. She has also directed a number of plays.

Ms. Suzman is a patron of the Market Theatre in Johannesburg and appeared in its inaugural production in 1976. A decade later, she directed Othello there, with John Kani in the title role-also filmed for Channel Four TV-which won an AA Vita Best Production Award. She has written and directed her own versions of plays (which include a radical change of setting to contemporary South Africa) such as Brecht's Good Person of Setzuan and Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, renamed The Free State. This was performed at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in association with the Market Theatre and won the 1998 Barclays TMA Best Director Award. She has twice won the Evening Standard Best Actress Award and has received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Nicholas and Alexandra.

She appeared with actress Kim Cattrall in Whose Life is it Anyway?, and the two of them joined again as director and actor in a phenomenal run of Antony and Cleopatra at the Liverpool Playhouse. Janet also appeared in South African playwright Craig Higginson's Dream of the Dog, which she helped to develop. It was such a success that it transferred directly to the West End's Trafalgar Studios after its initial run at the Finborough.

Before Solomon and Marion, Suzman last worked at the Baxter in 2007 when she directed Hamlet, the first collaboration between the Baxter and the RSC. The production premiered at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2006. It then transferred to the Baxter, and a year later returned for a short run before heading off to Stratford-upon-Avon to launch the RSC's prestigious year-long Complete Works Festival.

Current as of March 2014
Dame Janet Suzman