18 January 1985: Sunday Telegraph

Tigress On The No. 27

The No. 27 bus from Kensington to Hammersmith carries a special passenger these days, though she would rather not be seen as such. Her name is Diana Rigg.

Miss Rigg is making the daily journey to achieve her overdue return to the stage in Ibsen and then in Shakespeare, a combination which provides her busiest theatrical year in over a decade.

But what is she doing on a bus? She replied: "I'm a practical lady and the bus is the most practical way for me to get to the theatre.

"The conductor looked at me as though I was an extra-terrestrial and asked me if I often travel by bus. The answer is Yes, I do."

The tall and tawny tigress of an actress is commuting the short distance from her home to Hammersmith's Lyric Theatre to rehearse Ibsen's Little Eyolf for a February 13 opening.

Beyond that lies the enticing prospect of Miss Rigg spending the summer in Sussex playing Cleopatra at Chichester, the first time she has to the Bard on stage since the heady days of her discovery in RSC seasons at Stratford.

It all makes for a positive start to the New Year for her after enduring a particularly bleak 1984.

The TV film of Charles Dickens's Bleak House, in which she played Lady Dedlock, was disrupted by a scene-shifters' dispute, the production took months rather than weeks to complete and it seemed Miss Rigg had quite disappeared.

After a Christmas holiday at the Perthshire pile of her husband Archie Stirling - "lots of fresh air, long walks, children and dogs" - she is back in her usual ebullient form.

She played the empassioned Rita in Little Eyolf for television two years ago and now returns to the role in a production with Ronald Pickup and Cheryl Campbell, directed by Clare Davidson.

She said: "It doesn't say much for my brain but I don't remember that many of the lines. It is not such a bad thing really as there is a lot of re-learning to do with a new director and a new cast.

"It's not a well-known play but the Ibsen experts believe it is his best play. He takes the lid off a very ordinary household and shows what has been hidden - the death of a child - and how they cope with it."

Her return to Shakespeare as the Wueen of the Nile will be one of the highlights of the theatre year and an event she admits she has postponed for too long.

"I have not done Shakespeare on stage for a very long time. There was the Lear on ITV with Sir Laurence and a film of Julius Caesar which is long forgotten, but I thought if i left it much longer I'd be over the hill.

"There are certain roles when you have to ask yourself if you will regret it if you don't do it. When the answer is Yes then you haev to get on with it. Cleaopatra is one of those.

"There are other roles which I'd avoid like the plague. Portia is one of them and, when I was younger, Juliet. They were patently not right for me. Cleopatra, I hope, is."

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