05 May 1981: New Standard

Diana In The Deep End

"Hellish brave at my age, don't you think?" This was Diana Rigg talking this week of her Broadway musical debut later this year. She is taking on the Americans in their own backyaed in the title role of a show that will live or die on her performance...

Long, lean and lithe, Diana Rigg came climbing out of the pool like some big sexy cat shaking the water from her hair, grinning widely and settling herself amid a flurry of towels.

Behind her stood Majorca's No. 1 luxury hotel and beyond the blue Mediterranean sparkled in the evening sunset. It was the absolute cliche of the glamorous film star interview.

Fortunately, Miss Rigg was never that obviously conventional a lady and over an hour the talk ranged from that musical to the new directions in her life.

She had arrived earlier this week to join the starry company now established in Majorca filming the latest of the Agatha Christie movies for EMI. This one is Evil Under the Sun, with Peter Ustinov returning to his Poirot role.

Miss Rigg is the murder victim of the piece. She plays a diva of the musical comedy stage with enough enemies to provide M. Poirot with a roomful of suspects. Among then are James Mason, Denis Quilley, Colin Blakely, Sylvia Miles, Nicholas Clay and Jane Birkin.

She had spent the morning parading the exotic costumes designer Anthony Powell had provided for her to the approval of director Guy Hamilton. Then there had been a lot of bobbing about small boats.

She said: "I play an archetypal actress bitch, always a good part, and get to look extremely glamorous. She is a lady who is beastly to her step-daughter, cuckolds her husband, has a none-too-fragrant past and is possibly and embezzler. Thank God, they do not bump me off too early in the film."

Miss Rigg also has a musical number to sing, yet to be filmed. "I have to do a little cabaret turn which goes wonderfully wrong. Not quite sure how we are going to do that yet.

"The frocks are gorgeous. I'm covered in false nails, false eyelashes, a little hat perched over one eye - if there was a strong wind and a magnet I'd fall to pieces.

"I've only been here 48 hours and have not stopped laughing, with this company here. You take the work seriously, you have to when so much money is being spent. But with so much hanging around you have to do something to rise above it all."

Miss Rigg has not been in front of the cameras for the past year. There was the John Osbourne-adapted Hedda Gabler, the new Muppet movie, she has just finished filming Ibsen's Little Eyolf for BBC-TV and moved straight on to Evil Under the Sun.

Strangely, she has never quite managed to put together the movie career that constantly beckoned.

"It's true and I have thought about it. I love movies and I do keep trying, but it is something I have so far failed at, and I still want to prove that I don't necessarily have to fail.

"The camera hasn't yet drawn out of me what people draw out of me. I find it difficult to divulge to a machine. I much prefer theatre and seeing the people in front of me and getting their reaction."

Her next theatre excursion will be something extraordinary, even by her own exceptional standards. She will go to New York to make her Broadway debut in a musical playing Colette in a show about the French writer provided by the creators of such past successes as The Fantasticks and I Do, I Do.

Miss Rigg: "We start rehearsing in November and for me that will mean a big jump into the deep end.

"I've always wanted to do a Broadway musical. Chums of mine who have done musicals say that when the orchestre strikes up that overture it is the biggest present you can ever get.

"I've started voice and dancing lessons. I've been over to sing for the producers and they have not thrown me out yet.

"My voice is best described as basso; deep down and sort of transvestite.

"If it runs it will take up 18 months of my life which is quite a sacrifice. But it's something I badly want to do."

The commitment is evident as Miss Rigg would not lightly disrupt the home life she now thrives on with producer Archie Stirling and their daughter, Rachael.

Miss Rigg, now 42, can be as racy and risqué as the best of them but there are depths and strengths to her one can only normally guess at. She is always superbly in control of every situation.

Bravely, I thought, I asked her where she found the forces that have equipped her so superbly. Long pause.

"Well, obviously Archie is important to me. Very. And there is my darling Rache-pache.

"You say I am undaunted but I have many daunts. It is just that I go into my bathroom when I don't feel quite on top of things."

Miss Rigg, by this stage, had coiled herself on to all fours in a sun-lounger and plunged her chin deep into her hands.

"Things happened...I don't know. It makes you consider the things in life which are important.

"I have a faith which is private and personal to me and when you have been around as long as I have you possibly know something about yourself."

"I think if you know about yourself you tend to be less frightened of everything."

Dusk was quickly settling in of Miss Rigg in her still damp swimsuit and the heavily tanned figure was in danger of a chill.

"Come on, let's go in," she said, and her tall, head-high frame swung on towards the hotel.

Miss Rigg was back on the prowl.

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