In the labyrinth of corridors backstage at the National Theatre the figures "104" are scrawled repeatedly on the walls. They are the work of Miss Diana Rigg to guide her way back to her dressing room. "There is a feeling it's London Airport in these bare corridors," she said. "What the walls really need is some graffiti."
And suggestions? "Down with sexual imperialism. All flesh can come," replied Miss Rigg without a moment's hesitation.
She opened a bottle of champagne in her dressing room and we settled down for a chat about sexual imperialism. Actually, it was about how devious women can be and how they can run rings round men when they want to.
She looked in glowing health and beauty in a zipped-up blue denim suit, bright red sweater and red boots. She recently returned from New York with her boyfriend, producer Archie Stirling. They were sitting in a crowded Sardi's restaurant one evening when a telegram boy arrived to sing her a singing telegram of welcome. "Gradually the whole hubub of Sardi's became subdued to listen to this singing telegram, I had a hot flush. I know some people I'd like to send a singing telegram to."
Miss Rigg has returned to the National Theatre to play opposite Richard Johnson in Molnar's audaciously witty satire, The Guardsman, in a new English version by Frank Marcus. Peter Wood is the director, the settings, based on Klimt, are by Ralph Koltai and the costumes by David Walker. It opens on Tuesday. Judging by the rapturous receptions at previews, the National has a substantial hit on his hands to greet 1978.
The play, made famous by the Lunts, is about an actor who suspects the fidelity of his wife, who is an actress. He disguises himself as a guardsman to test the depth of her affection. Whether she was really deceived by his disguise is something you never really find out.
"It is an enigma for the audience," said Miss Rigg. "I think the crux of the play has more depth than its comedic line. It's about the female and male condition. The fact that in tactics women can run rings round men. A man tries to discover what a woman is thinking but he doesn't have the same instincts. He takes things at face value.
"It's the explanation of marriage. Peter (Wood) says it's about love. Everybody in the play, down to the maid, loves somebody. The play shows how it's manifested. The actor loves his wife so he dresses up as guardsman and propositions her.
"I do believe that women are more devious than men, certainly sexually and emotionally. We're more subtle. Every man will say so. The play is about the games that people play with each other."
Does she approve of people playing games? "Sometimes it's necessary to keep a relationship going. If the relationship is reaching a stagnant phase it's necessary to pep it up a bit - black fishnet stockings or the burglar syndrome." A delighted Rigg giggle. I was too shy to ask about her games.