17 August 2001: BBC News ARTS

Rigg Slates Theatre's 'Battery-hen' Conditions

Dame Diana Rigg has hit out at the National Theatre for providing artists with inadequate backstage facilities.

The actress, famed for her portrayal of the cat-suit clad Emma Peel in The Avengers, made her comments following her return to The National in Charlotte Jones' new play Humble Boy.

Although delighted to be back at the theatre six years after appearing in Brecht's Mother Courage, Dame Diana told The Daily Telegraph: "It's just a pity about the dressing rooms.

"As actors we don't expect to be pampered. But we have to be on top form to go out there and do it.

"The conditions are absolutely ludicrous for a theatre built from scratch. It makes me cross every time I enter the building."

The actress, who recently joined Tom Selleck and Farrah Fawcett in an American poll of TV's 10 hottest stars, likened the dressing rooms to "battery-hen hatches".

She said: "They're completely without character, very noisy and with little space or decent light."

A spokeswoman for the National told BBC News Online that they were not offended by Dame Diana's comments and agreed that backstage facilities were not ideal.

"The dressing rooms are designed to be functional rather than luxurious and they have all just been redecorated.

"I think they are adequate but if you compare the sort of facilities here with those in West End theatres, they are very different."

Dame Diana, 63, had not been asked to perform at the National for the first 20 years of its life despite being in one of the last National companies at the Old Vic.

"I don't remember feeling miffed or anything," she recalled.

"But I was very much part of the old guard."

Rigg eventually appeared at the National Theatre in a production of Mother Courage but was not impressed with the changes.

"I thought the Olivier stage was awful.

"It was much too big and trundly for a play which contained hundreds of small scenes," she added.

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