ACTRESS Colette Redgrave is returning to her Cumbrian roots when she brings a play to the county at the start of next month.

Colette – part of the Redgrave dynasty of actors – grew up in Bowness until the age of 11.

And she is returning to Cumbria on February 7, co-producing and starring in Picasso’s Women at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick.

“I wasn’t born in the Lake District. I was moved there with my parents at the age of three months so I don’t have any recollection of anywhere else before that.

“I remember two very clear things. My mum worked for English Lakes Hotels, at Low Wood,” said Colette.

“And my gran used to meet me after school. We would always go to the Alpine Cafe. Every day at 3.30 we would sit at the same table. I would have a hot chocolate. We would walk back home or go down to one of the Lakes walks.”

Her link to the Redgrave dynasty is through her great-grandfather Herbert, who was Sir Michael Redgrave’s cousin.

At the age of 11 Colette left Cumbria when she was moved to a secondary school in the south of the country, but she never forgot her roots.

When Colette married husband Jason Wallace, who hails from Glasgow, in 2006, they held the ceremony in Sri Lanka, but came back for a blessing at Storrs Hall.

“I have a lot of personal connections to that area,” said Colette, who has god children in Kendal,” she said.

The play Picasso’s Women was brought back to the stage in 2018, after a campaign by Colette.

“I first read the play, which was written by Brian McAvera, in 2000. It was produced at the National Theatre in eight monologues. The original production was done over a whole day,” she said.

“I read the play when I was about 17 and I was just really taken by it. I had this vision of it being produced in an art gallery. I thought I might just relook at that idea. I set up a campaign to try and get some funding to take the show to Edinburgh.

“It was fantastic. We crowd funded £7,000 and the Arts Council gave us some funds.”

Toyah Willcox, who was in the original production, agreed to be a patron, as did Dame Judi Dench. “It grew and became a snowball in its own right,” added Colette.

“Elizabeth Cowley, an art historian, suggested it would be suitable for the Edinburgh Fringe, so we took it to the Fruitmarket gallery in 2018. It was a new venture for them, they had never put on any Fringe events before that. We produced it in the gallery space. There was an exhibition on at the time.”

After the success of the production in Edinburgh, it was then staged at the Gallery Different in London.

Such was its success that other venues - including the Theatre by the Lake - also asked to stage it. Two nights before the play in Keswick, Picasso’s Women is being performed at York’s Theatre Royal as part of their Visionari Project, where it is the top selling show for that week.

“I didn’t expect it to have such longevity. After Edinburgh and London we put it to bed. But when you have spent to much money on that kind of thing, it seemed a waste to put it away in a box and never see it again. The financial investment has been made. It is a show that can rock up to a space and perform,” she said.

“The whole show can fit in the back of my Smart car - although not the actors as well! The audiences seem to enjoy it and find it thought provoking.”

Colette is also looking forward to performing in Keswick. Despite her connections to the area, this will be her first performance in Cumbria - not including school productions!

“The theatre is a wonderful venue. One of my dreams would be to do a summer season at Keswick. That would just be wonderful - being paid to do something you love in a place you love,” she said.

“A one-off show is idyllic and I am very grateful for it but I would love to do a full summer season.

“After the night in Keswick, depending on the weather I am quite tempted to go and do a few walks for a bit of rest and relaxation.”

Picasso’s Women features a series of monologues and confessionals performed by three of the most influential women in the early life of seminal 20th Century artistic genius, Picasso.

The production features Fernande, played by Judith Paris, who tells the audience about the lustful early years of her relationship with Picasso. Fernande is known to have published her memoirs in her later years to great success.

The play then focuses on Olga, Picasso’s first wife who is played by Colette. She candidly recounts the ‘departments in which Picasso lacked’ and the sadness she felt when she lost her husband to the younger and nubile Marie-Therese performed by Lucy Hunt.

Colette has recently worked on the new BBC film ‘The Windermere Children’ and also provided voice recordings for ‘Swallows and Amazons’ released in 2016. She is delighted to be performing for the first time in her ‘spiritual home’ a place she feels ‘hefted’ to.

“I am delighted that Picasso’s Women, as Flying Elephant’s premier production, has been so well received. The feedback and reviews have been overwhelming and we look forward to producing more thought provoking, female led work over the next few years,” said Colette.

Judith Paris has a long, impressive CV in the theatre. She is a one-time member of both the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company performing with Sir Ian McKellen, Charles Dance and Vanessa Redgrave. She made her Broadway debut in Medea with Diana Rigg and performed in seven films for Ken Russell including The Devils and The Rainbow.

Picasso’s Women is at the Theatre by the Lake on Friday February 7, at 7.30pm. Tickets are £12, £7 (concessions, students/under 16s)

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