03 September 1976: Evening Standard

Strange Tales From The Vienna Woods

Tales from the Vienna woods are taking on something of a fresh meaning with the import of stars like Taylor, Rigg and Hermione Gringold and ace Broadway names like Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim to Vienna to make the film version of Sondheim's A Little Night Music.

Miss Rigg plays the long-suffering Charlotte, married to a Hussar in love with the glamorous middle-aged actress Desiree Armfeldt, played by Elizabeth Taylor.

The Vienna woods are not what they were, apparently. Miss Rigg found them disappointing. Any hanky-panky in the woods? "Oh, NO," said Miss Rigg. "If you laid down in the woods people would turn you over to look for mushrooms.

"I thought it would be marvellous to go there, to get away from it all in the wooded hills. But Austrians leap out at you, carrying berries or mushrooms, from every bush. A very busy place. They're very serious walkers, carrying knapsacks. It's a hive of activity. In various parts of the woods there are signs detailing 12 different exercises. You're supposed to run from one to the other. They've even got parallel bars. You've obviously got to keep busy."

Miss Rigg, in blue denim suit and wearing Union Jack socks, was stretched out on a bed in a dressing room she shares with Lesley-Ann Down in the Schloss Schoenborn, near the Czechoslovakia border. Filming has moved here today after scenes in Vienna's Thetre an der Wien.

Miss Rigg was waiting patiently on call. Filming was taking place in a large baroque bedroom upstairs. Hung around the dressing room were the superb costumes Florentz Klotz had designed for Miss Rigg. "I have to hold the train of one dress. It weighs about the same as a week's shopping at Sainsbury's."

Miss Rigg is never at a loss for the homely touch.

"The singing and waltzing on the stage of the Theatre an der Wien were tough. Incredibly hard. My feet got blistered. We rehearsed for three weeks. It was like an intensive course at Ada Foster's.

"We really seem to be a company here. Elizabeth seems one of us, apart from that diamond she wears on her finger. That automatically makes her not one of us. It's like to Foxes Glacier mints."

The filming was Miss Rigg's second appearance at the famous Theatre an der Wien. She accompanied Peter Hall there recently for the 200th anniversary celebrations of the theatre. We were representatived from Britain, as it were.

"All of us in our own ways were representative of our nations. The French were very stylish, the Italian lady who spoke was full of fire, the Poles were histrionic and went on for a long time. I stood up, very cool, brief and English. I read a sonnet."

Which sonnet? "Can't remember. I found it that morning in a book."

vienna? "Well, it's not actually throbbing with activity. Curious for a capital city. I think the Austrians have a faint regret for the past. The theatre in Vienna is state subsidised and that's all very well but it makes for a placid complacency. A well-ordered existence. Nothing is exploding anywhere. If it is, then we haven't heard.

"There's a lot of one, two, three going on." Pardon? "Waltzing,dear. There are orchestras in the Stadtpark and people dancing there. Terribly sweet You should see the Japanese getting hip to the one, two, three."

Did she go dancing? "Dear heart, I've done so much waltzing on that stage I don't ever want to hear one again."

She is returning to the National Theatre next year to play in Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, directed by John Schlesinger, and in The Guardsman. "I don't know yet who is directing The Guardsman but I say I want it to be a director I can learn from. Hint. Hint."

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