16 June 1972: Evening Standard

The Strange Travels of Diana Rigg in a bus...

Miss Diana Rigg writes poetry but only when she's miserable. She tends to be more creative when she's miserable.

But next week she will be reading other people's poetry in public in London in some very distinguished company.

Quietly, and without much of a fanfare, this year's Poetry International opens next Monday and you can take a choice of listening to W.H. Auden, Harold Pinter, Malcom Muggeridge, Edna O'Brien, Robert Lowell, Stephen Spender, Judi Dench, Gemma Jones, Germaine Greer,

There are some splendid entertainments lined up at the ICA, Pall Mall, and the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Miss Rigg, Judi Dench and Gemma Jones will read Sylvia Plath's play, Three Women, and other poems from Winter Trees on Tuesday night. Three Women is set in a maternity ward which is appropriate as Miss Dench is shortly expecting her first child.

Miss Rigg returns the next night in a programme called Why Shun A Nude Tag? with Malcom Muggeridge and Paul Hardwick, accompanied by Dudley Moore, which will be readings from Auden's A Common Place Book. The come-on Nude in the title is an anagram of Auden.

We meet for two large Bloody Marys this week. She is wearing a bright red suit, glamorous and attractive as ever.

She is recovering from the rigours of touring with the National Theatre company in one-night performances of 'Tis Pity She's a Whore up and down the country in places like Burslem and Swindon and Bury St. Edmunds.

The trips have not been without their dramas. In Weymouth someone broke into her hotel room and "turned over" her luggage. "Luckily I travel light. I didn't have much in the bag. Just a clean pair of knickers and a toothbrush."

On the trip to Bury St. Edmunds they nearly didn't get there. "It took us seven hours. We went 80 miles out of the way because no one knew the right way. We arrived an hour before the performance but the theatre there is divine.

"I lost all my money on the way home playing poker in the back of the bus."

She seems slightly unhappy she gets star billing on these trips. "All I do is have two scenes and a spit."

Next week she will be playing in Jumpers again at the National and she's suddenly realised she has a performance on Tuesday. "I'll have to read in full slap and then go to the theatre."

She greatly admires the poetry of Sylvia Plath. "A powerful woman. She has an almost masculine assessment of situations."

I mention Sylvia Plath's suicide and she says she read a quotation the other day about suicide by a Greek philosopher. "He said a man may choose to commit suicide not because he is miserable but because he is discriminating. We've lost that thought in the 20th Century. You should be able to discriminate about living or not without society condemning you."

She says she enjoys reading poetry aloud - "I probably get more enjoyment than the people listening."

She writes poetry - "bits and pieces" - that "will never be shown to anyone, ever."

Romantic verse? "No, usually miserable. I'm more creative when I'm miserable. I get miserable about all sorts of things. Usually about one's self. You suddenly feel your limitations and wish your comprehension was better. It's the impotence of just being you."

She has Lady Macbeth lined up at the National in the autumn and she is pleased about that. And she is about to make a horror movie with Vincent Price.

"I'm the daughter, mainly in drag."

Does the daughter have a problem? She laughs.

"No, she just happens to wear drag, that's all."

What's the film called?

"Theatre of Blood. What else?"

"He's an old actor laddie who doesn't like the critics and bumps all of them off one by one."

Then, with that delightful grin, Miss Rigg asks: "Like a part?"

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