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Janet Suzman was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, moving to London in 1959. She trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1963 playing many Shakespearean heroines, including Rosalind in As You Like It and Cleopatra which is said to be a definitive performance now captured on film.

Janet Suzman, musical, green cross, 2050: The Future We Want, Peace ChildShe also appeared in Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, Chekhov’s The Three SistersMarlowe, Racine, Gorky, Brecht, Genet, Pinter, Ronald Harwood, Nicholson and Albee.

Her first film role was in Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) in which she played the Empress Alexandra. She also starred in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972) with Alan Bates and as Frieda Lawrence with Ian McKellen in Priest of Love (1981).

Her other best-known films are Don Siegel’s The Black Windmill (1974),  Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982) and Federico Fellini’s E la Nave Va (And the Ship Sails On, 1983)

She also directed Othello in her native South Africa and re-wrote Brecht’s The Good Woman of Setzuan as The Good Woman of Sharpeville, both at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg.

This summer has seen her starring in an intensely moving play at the Edinburgh Festival, Solomon and Marion by Lara Foot of the Baxter Theatre Centre from South Africa. The play was motivated by the murder of the actor Brett Goldin in 2006 just before the company was due to leave for Stratford-upon-Avon in the UK to perform Hamlet directed by Janet at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Complete Works Festival.

26-year-old Khayalethu Anthony made his mainstream theatre debut with Dame Janet in the production in the role of  Solomon. When Khayalethu heard that he was to perform opposite Dame Janet Suzman he was “freaked out”. He said: “I started Googling the name Janet Suzman and found she is a world-class actress with an incredible performance reputation. To share the same stage with one of the finest actors in the world is more than a privilege for me; it is more than an honour. It just simply is the best thing that has happened to me in my life.”

The young people of the 2050: The Future We Want cast feel exactly the same way!

Janet Suzman was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to drama.

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