Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

No Worries for Diana

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

No Worries for Diana

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Whetstone

She may be a dame but she's not too grand to hit the road in a tough play. David Whetstone talks to Diana Rigg about Suddenly Last Summer.

If you remember Emma Peel on terrestrial TV, the chances are that you're not of the hip-hop generation. But what memories to take into retirement!

Emma, played by Diana Rigg, was an undercover agent in the 1960s espionage series The Avengers. She replaced Honor Blackman and was duly replaced by Linda Thorson.

But none matched Rigg's leather-clad action woman. Ms Peel made her last appearances in 1969, but Diana Rigg didn't need leather boots to keep her career striding forth.

She is now officially "Dame", one of a formidable triumvirate with Maggie Smith and Judi Dench.

Theatre director Michael Grandage perhaps didn't have to explain why he approached Dame Diana to play Mrs Venable in his acclaimed production of the Tennessee Williams play Suddenly Last Summer, which comes to the North-East next week.

"She is somebody I've watched for years," he confided before a matinee in Sheffield.

"One of her greatest qualities is that she isn't concerned ( and this is slightly unusual ( with vanity on stage. She is prepared to go to all sorts of places and not worry about how she looks."

"If you're going to play a part like Mrs Venable, you have to go to a formidable place and you can't have any worries about anything," said Grandage. "If you can only be truthful, as Diana is, then you are perfectly qualified for the part."

The play focuses on the fraught confrontation between the bereaved Mrs Venable, whose son died "suddenly last summer", and the young woman, Catharine Holly, who was with him at the time. Mrs V is a vengeful dragon who understandably saw only the best in her son.

It's a powerful blast of drama set in an extraordinary garden where son Sebastian kept his flesh-eating plants. Diana Rigg's performance is equal to the challenge posed by a showy set and by Williams' demanding text.

Shortly after the performance, a cold-wracked Diana Rigg explained why she took the part. …

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