London theatre lights dimmed in tribute to Natasha Richardson

THEATRES in London’s West End dimmed their lights for two minutes last night mirroring Broadway’s tribute to actress Natasha Richardson, who died following a skiing accident.

Lights at 52 major venues in the British capital went down just before curtain-up, the Society of London Theatre said.

Last night 45-year-old Richardson’s grieving husband Liam Neeson watched as New York’s theatre district turned down its illuminations in a mark of respect for the acclaimed actress.

Her mother, the Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave, and actress sister Joely Richardson are also believed to have attended the tribute, along with well-known members of the acting fraternity including Sex And The City star Sarah Jessica Parker and her husband Matthew Broderick.

Nica Burns, president of the Society of London Theatre, said: “This is a gesture of condolence at this sad time, and a mark of respect for both Natasha Richardson and her immediate family, and for the Redgrave family as a whole who have made such a unique contribution to British theatre.”

Performance start times varied in the West End, which meant the tribute was not simultaneous, as on Broadway, but was staggered over a short period of time.

Richardson came from one of Britain’s most respected theatre families. She was the granddaughter of Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, the niece of Lynn and Corin Redgrave and her late father was director Tony Richardson.

Her extensive stage experience included Ophelia in Hamlet and Helena in A vMidsummer Night’s Dream and she won a Tony award in 1998 for her Broadway performance as Sally Bowles in Cabaret.

The actress’s death was announced on Wednesday night, two days after she fell while learning to ski in the Canadian resort of Mont Tremblant.

On Thursday a medical examiner in New York confirmed an accidental blunt impact to the head had caused the actress’s death.

Charlotte St Martin, executive director of the Broadway League, described her as one of theatre’s “finest young actresses”. She added that Richardson’s performances in Cabaret and other hits Anna Christie, A Streetcar Named Desire and Closer demonstrated “a pinnacle of excellence — both emotionally and intellectually — that electrified those fortunate enough to be sitting in the theatre and experiencing her magic”.

The theatrical tradition of dimming the lights in tribute to fallen stars of the stage originated in Broadway but is becoming increasingly common in Britain, a Society of London Theatre spokesman said.

In January, all Ambassador Theatre Group-owned venues in London’s theatre district dimmed their lights as a mark of remembrance for playwright Harold Pinter, who died in December.

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