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10 September 1975: Daily Mail

Oh, Diana, You Really Are Out of This World!

There can be scarcely a pinnacle role the remains unconquered by the consistently amazing talents of Diana Rigg.

In the past two years she has given a spellbound and bingin Lady Macbeth, a definitive Eliza Doolittle, and a matchless heroine of 'Le Misanthrope.'

She scales the heights of comedy and the depths of tragedy with equal grace.

But now she carves her name on the glory role of drama's classic victim, Phaedra.

Her performance is a triumph. It sweeps in a long, slow arc from a high point of arid sexual frustration to a numbed nihilism as she succumbs to the self-knowledge that she loves her own step-son enough to deny everything she should hold dear.

Naturally, Miss Rigg is not any ordinary Phaedra - even if such a creature existed. Tony Harrison's translation has been cleverly avoided most odious comparisons with Racine's incomparably austere verse.

If Racine could pilfer the plots of Euripides and Seneca. Mr Harrison has no compunction about transferring Phaedra to the British Raj just before the Indian Mutiny.

In this setting, even the most blatant of hisRubert Bear couplets take on a formality of dignity and innocence.

Director John Dexter - ably abetted by Tanya Mosciwitch's musk-hung settings - invokes all India's dark gods and wild beasts to give this Phaedra throbbing Freudian relevance.

Thus, Miss Rigg distractedly drags the burden of her crineline (that Victorian celebration of feminine bondage) through the pillared prison she inhabits.

By the time she has confessed her secret to her ayah, her eyes are bare with vulnerability and she is at the mercy of her guilt.

David Yellund, as her Anglo-Indian stepson, lives up to all her physical descriptions with a cold aloofness.

It is, however, Michael Gough, as the governor who returns from the presumed dead, who fully demonstrates the raw passions once capable of igniting this spent mem-sahib.

My only regret is that Miss Rigg should choose to fall dead in a posture clearly revealing her as pulsating with life.


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