Jane Lapotaire

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Jane Lapotaire
Jane Elizabeth Marie Burgess

(1944-12-26) 26 December 1944 (age 77)
Ipswich, Suffolk, England
Years active1965–present
  • Oliver Wood
    (m. 1965; div. 1967)
  • (m. 1974; div. 1980)
ChildrenRowan Joffé

Jane Elizabeth Marie Lapotaire (née Burgess; 26 December 1944) is an English actress.


Lapotaire was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, the daughter of Louise Elise (Burgess). Her stepfather, Yves Lapotaire, worked in the oil industry and was originally from Quebec, Canada.[1] From the age of two months she was raised as a foster child by an old-age pensioner, Grace Chisnell (Granny Grace), who was also the foster mother of Lapotaire's own biological mother, a French orphan, who was abandoned in England. When Lapotaire was about 12, her biological mother made a bid to get her back. The child welfare department of the Suffolk County Council intervened and decided that the mother had this right. Lapotaire chose to be with Granny Grace but lived with her biological mother and step-father, who worked in various French oil companies in North Africa (particularly Libya), three times a year. She also adopted their family name. The Lapotaires in North Africa were Francophone and, like French colonials at that time, lived around the French embassy. Granny Grace died in 1984 aged 96 and Louise Burgess in 1999.[2][3]

She studied at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School from 1961 to 1963, the programme was a two-year course at that time unlike the three-year course today. She had earlier auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London but failed to get in. She joined the Bristol Old Vic theatre company in 1965.[4] She joined the National Theatre in 1967, was a founding member of The Young Vic Theatre in 1970/1971, and moved to the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1974.[5]

Her performance in the title role of Marie Curie (1977) first brought her to wide attention. In 1978, she performed the title role Édith Piaf for Pam Gems's play Piaf, directed by Howard Davies for the Royal Shakespeare Company, in Stratford-upon-Avon and in London at the Warehouse Theatre, Covent Garden in 1979. Two years later, the show moved to Broadway. Lapotaire won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play that year.[6]

She was married to director Roland Joffé from 1974 to 1980;[7] they had one son, screenwriter and director Rowan Joffé (born 1973). Following their divorce, she was for a time the partner of actor Michael Pennington.[8]

She returned to the Royal Shakespeare Company in October–November 2013 as the Duchess of Gloucester in Gregory Doran's adaptation of Richard II with David Tennant in the title role.[9] This was followed in October–December 2015 as Queen Isobel in Henry V.[10][11] On Christmas Day in 2014, she appeared as Princess Irina Kuragin in season 5 episode 9 of Downton Abbey.


Lapotaire has written a number of memoirs: Grace and Favour,[12] Out of Order: A Haphazard Journey Through One Woman's Year,[13] and Everybody's Daughter, Nobody's Child,[14] which includes an account of her childhood growing up in Levington Road, Ipswich.


On 11 January 2000, while preparing to teach a course on Shakespeare at the Ecole Internationale in Paris France, Lapotaire suffered a massive cerebral haemorrhage. Four days after her collapse, she underwent a six-hour surgery and spent the next three weeks largely unconscious.[3] She writes about her recovery in Time Out of Mind.[15]


Lapotaire is Honorary President of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Club,[16] and is President of the Friends of Shakespeare's Globe.[citation needed]

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Role
2021 Smyrna Filio Mpaltatzi
2020 Rebecca Granny
2016 The Young Messiah Sarah
2005 Can't Stop Breathing Daisy (short movie)
2000 There's Only One Jimmy Grimble Alice Brewer[17]
1997 Shooting Fish Dylan's Headmistress
1996 Surviving Picasso Olga Picasso
1986 Lady Jane Princess/Queen Mary
1984 To Catch a King Irene Neumann
1983 Eureka Helen McCann
1975 One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing Miss Prescott
1973 The Asphyx Christina Cunningham
1972 Antony and Cleopatra Charmian
1970 Crescendo Lillianne
Year Title Role Notes
2019 The Crown Princess Alice of Battenberg 2 episodes[18]
2014 Downton Abbey Princess Kuragin Episode: A Moorland Holiday
2006 Eleventh Hour Gepetto Episode: Resurrection
2005 The Inspector Lynley Mysteries Fiona Deakin-Jones Episode: War of God
2004 He Knew He Was Right Lady Milborough
Bella and the Boys Mrs. Rogers TV film
2000 Arabian Nights Miriam TV film
1996 Simisola Anouk Khoori TV film
1995 Johnny and the Dead Mrs. Sylvia Liberty
1994 The Alleyn Mysteries Elspeth Cost Episode: Dead Water
1992–93 Love Hurts Diane Warburg (Series 1–2, 20 episodes)
1989 Murder in Space Louise Mackey TV film
1988 Theatre Night Aline Solness Episode: The Master Builder
1987 Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story Letizia Bonaparte
1983 Macbeth Lady Macbeth TV film
1981 Antony & Cleopatra Cleopatra TV film[19]
1978 The Devil's Crown Eleanor of Aquitaine
1977 Marie Curie Marie Curie
1975 Edward the Seventh Empress Marie of Russia
1973 Crown Court Juliet Tomlin 3 episodes
Van der Valk Elly Episode: Rich Man, Poor Man
1972 Armchair Theatre Jean Episode: On Call
Love and Mr Lewisham Miss Heydinger
Callan Kristina Episode: The Contract
The Edwardians Alice Houston
1971 Jason King French maid Episode:Buried in the Cold Cold Ground
1968 Sherlock Holmes Annie Harrison Episode:The Naval Treaty

Theatre work[edit]

Her stage credits include:[20]

  • (Stage debut) Ruby Birtle, When We Are Married, Bristol Old Vic Theatre, Bristol, England, 1965
  • Vivie, Mrs. Warren's Profession, Bristol Old Vic Theatre, 1965–1967
  • Natasha, War and Peace, Bristol Old Vic Theatre, 1965–1967
  • Ruth, The Homecoming, Bristol Old Vic Theatre, 1965–1967
  • Judith, The Dance of Death, National Theatre, London, 1967
  • Antoinette, A Flea in Her Ear, National Theatre, 1967
  • Mincing, later Mrs. Fainall, The Way of the World, National Theatre, 1969
  • Tania, Macrune's Guevara, National Theatre, 1969
  • Zanche, The White Devil, National Theatre, 1969
  • Don Quixote's niece, The Travails of Sancho Panza, National Theatre, 1969
  • Jessica, The Merchant of Venice, National Theatre, 1970
  • Zerbinetta, Scapino, Young Vic Theatre, London, 1970–1971
  • Katherina, The Taming of the Shrew, Young Vic Theatre, 1970–1971
  • Jocasta, Oedipus, Young Vic Theatre, 1970–1971
  • Isabella, Measure for Measure, Young Vic Theatre, 1970–1971
  • Lieschen, The Captain of Koepenick, National Theatre, 1971
  • Lady Macduff, Macbeth, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1974
  • Sonya, Uncle Vanya, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1974
  • Rosalind, As You Like It, Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham, England, then Edinburgh Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1975
  • Viola, Twelfth Night, Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford, England, then Aldwych Theatre, London, 1975
  • Vera, A Month in the Country, Royal Shakespeare Company, Albery Theatre, London, 1975
  • Lucy Honeychurch, A Room with a View, Royal Shakespeare Company, Albery Theatre, 1975
  • Rosalind, As You Like It, Riverside Studios, London, 1976
  • Title role, The Duchess of Malfi, Bristol Old Vic Theatre, 1976
  • Rosaline, Love's Labour's Lost, Stratford, 1978 then Aldwych Theatre, 1979
  • Edith Piaf, Piaf, Other Place Theatre, London, then Warehouse Theatre, London, later Aldwych Theatre, all 1979 then Wyndham's Theatre and Piccadilly Theatre, both London, 1980 later Plymouth Theatre, New York City, 1981
  • Eileen, Kick for Touch, National Theatre, 1983
  • Belvidera, Venice Preserv'd, National Theatre, 1984
  • Antigone, National Theatre, 1984
  • Title role, Saint Joan, Compass Company, 1985
  • Double Double, Fortune Theatre, London, 1986
  • Misalliance, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1986
  • Archbishop's Ceiling, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1986
  • Greenland, Royal Court Theatre, London, 1988
  • Joy Davidman, Shadowlands, Queen's Theatre, London, 1989-1990
  • Gertrude, Hamlet, Royal Shakespeare Company, Barbican Theatre, London, 1992
  • Mrs. Alving, Ghosts, Royal Shakespeare Company, Other Place Theatre, Stratford, 1993
  • Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII (also known as The Famous History of the Life of Henry VIII), Royal Shakespeare Company, Young Vic Theatre, 1998
  • Major Tours
  • Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII (also known as The Famous History of the Life of Henry VIII), Royal Shakespeare Company, U.S. cities, 1998
  • Maria Callas, Master Class, British cities, 1999


In April 2018, Lapotaire became the 29th recipient of the prestigious Pragnell Shakespeare Birthday Award[21] and gave the 454th Shakespeare Birthday Lecture on 20 April 2018.[22]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1989 Blind Justice (1988) British Academy Television Award for Best Actress Nominated
1978 Marie Curie (1977) British Academy Television Award for Best Actress Nominated
Year Nominee / work Award Result
1981 Piaf (1978-1981) Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play Won
1983 Piaf (1978-1981) CableACE Award for Actress in a Theatrical or Non-Musical Program Nominated
Year Nominee / work Award Result
2020 The Crown (2019) Gold Derby TV Award for Drama Guest Actress Nominated


  1. ^ Profile, filmreference.com; accessed 26 February 2016.
  2. ^ Carole Zucker, In the Company of Actors: Reflections on the Craft of Acting (New York: Theatre Arts Books/Routledge, 1999), p. 78.
  3. ^ a b "I know what hell is". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 16 January 2020. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  4. ^ Carole Zucker, In the Company of Actors: Reflections on the Craft of Acting (New York: Theatre Arts Books/Routledge, 1999), pp. 79–80.
  5. ^ Opitz, Lary. "Jane Lapotaire". academics.skidmore.edu. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  6. ^ Young, Marielle. "Stars Who Won a Tony Award and an Olivier Award for the Same Role". The Official Website of the American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  7. ^ According to the GRO at findmypast.co.uk
    Roland V I Joffe married Jane E M Lapotaire in 1974.
  8. ^ Daniel Farson, "The Latest Prince", The Sunday Telegraph, July 1980.
  9. ^ Vonledebur, Catherine (11 October 2013). "Jane Lapotaire rejoins the RSC with a role in Richard III". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  10. ^ Neill, Heather (28 September 2015). "10 Questions for Actress Jane Lapotaire". theartsdesk.com. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  11. ^ "The Royal Shakespeare Company's Gregory Doran completes his ambitious 'King and Country' tetralogy with rising star Alex Hassell in the title role of Henry V". Shakespeare Magazine. October 2015. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  12. ^ Lapotaire, Jane (1989). Grace and Favour. Macmillan. ISBN 0333481038.
  13. ^ Lapotaire, Jane (1999). Out of Order: A Haphazard Journey Through One Woman's Year. Kyle Cathie. ISBN 1856263169.
  14. ^ Lapotaire, Jane (2007). Everybody's Daughter, Nobody's Child. London: Virago. ISBN 978-1844084166.
  15. ^ Lapotaire, Jane (2004). Time Out Of Mind. London: Virago Press. ISBN 1844080552.
  16. ^ "About us – Bristol Old Vic Theatre Club". Bristol Old Vic Theatre Club. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  17. ^ "There's Only One Jimmy Grimble". Amazon. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  18. ^ Gordon, Naomi (11 October 2019). "The Crown will explore Prince Philip's mother's extraordinarily tragic life". Harper's BAZAAR. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  19. ^ "BBC Shakespeare Antony and Cleopatra". Amazon. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  20. ^ "Jane Lapotaire Biography (1944–)". www.filmreference.com. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  21. ^ "Jane Lapotaire receives Pragnell Award". www.pragnell.co.uk. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  22. ^ "Shakespeare's 454th Birthday Celebrations!". warks.muddystilettos.co.uk. 17 April 2018. Retrieved 22 April 2021.

External links[edit]