Vanessa Redgrave delivers stellar Brighton Festival 2012 line-up

The UK’s largest international arts festival is back with a packed programme curated by this year’s Guest Director, Vanessa Redgrave.

Described by playwrights Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams as “The greatest living actress of our times”, Redgrave’s credentials are immaculate. The only British actress ever to win the Oscar, Emmy, Tony, Cannes, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild awards, she is more than just a doyenne of British theatre.

The founding member, along with her brother, the late Corin Redgrave, of the Trotskyite Workers’ Revolutionary Party in 1973, she has remained a principled political activist unafraid to stand up for what she believes in. In recent years Redgrave has been a vocal campaigner for human rights, supporting Liberty, Amnesty International and Russian NGO’s Memorial and Za Prava Cheloveka, in addition to her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

Jane Fonda, who in 1977 co-starred in Julia, a film about an anti-fascist activist in Nazi-era Germany, said of working with Redgrave “Her voice seems to come from some deep place that knows all suffering and all secrets”. Her selections for the Brighton Festival 2012 programme reflect this depth.

No quarter is given to the dark forces of realpolitik in the headlining event, the world premiere multimedia performance A World I Loved by Wadad Makdisi Cortas. An exclusive festival commission, which is narrated by Redgrave herself, chronicles the life of Cortas, from her childhood in Lebanon under the French mandate, through the creation of Israel and the expulsion of the Palestinians, to the Lebanon civil war, as told in her book A World I Loved: story of an Arab woman.

The first ever recital of Alice Oswald’s Memorial, a re-telling of Homer’s Iliad, which looks at what it is to lose a generation of young men to war, is joined by King Priam, an opera by Sir Michael Tippett. First performed in the rebuilt Coventry cathedral in 1962, it is a scathing denouncement of militarism.

Unashamedly highbrow, the books and debate selections offer echoes of the zeitgeist in Be Outraged – there are alternatives! and Antarctica, alongside the more contemplative but no less topical The Unsaid: Diplomatic Incidents which explores how language frames our understanding of reality.

Cosmopolitan, humanist and oh-so Brighton, Redgrave’s festival programme is bound to be a sell-out success.

Tickets are now on sale online at

Previously published on Brighton Lite:

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