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27 January 1985: Sunday Telegraph

Full Rigg

On Tuesday night Diana Rigg was being threatened in black and white by a mad scientist. He was giving her that old line about never having killed a woman before but unfortunately, etc, ha-ha, cackle-cackle. Fortunately, Miss Rigg survived appear again this Tuesday in "The Avengers," Channel 4.

On Thursday Miss Rigg was to be seen in the pink (a rather fetching tracksuit affair) at a social club in Chiswick lunching on a not-so-fetching bully-beef roll. The effect was just as unreal.

She is, you see, as they say, a little larger than life (they also usually add "this tall, tawny tigress of an actress," but we'll let that pass). Something not quite right about her in a venue advertising as it's next cabaret evening "comedians and a lady artiste" while halves were supped, and fruit machines plinked and plonked below notices giving orders from "The Committee."

No, no, she is not the lady artiste. She was rehearsing Ibsen. "Little Eyolf." Opens at the Lyric, Hammersmith, next month. She has played in it before, she says, between bites of bully-beef. She had been longing to do it again because there was so much to be mined there, she said.

I wish I could convey to you exactly how she said "mined," though. That first "i" was as long as the bully-beef roll. And she has this way of saying things like, "I thought I'd love, love to," and "I could never, never not, not work." A little actressy, actressy. But then she is an actress. One of our finest, by general acclaim and consent.

And, if everybody will forgive me, very, very attractive. Judge the face for yourself. Take my word for the grace and the laugh. Or go along to the Lyric. Or to Chichester later in the year to see her playing Cleopatra in Antony and Same. Or await her role as Lady Dedlock in the BBC's forthcoming version of "Bleak House." (Actually, come to think of this, not many laughs in that lot. It is a fine laugh, though, perfect pitch with just the right amount of throat.)

Still, a lot going on. Last year you would have had to settle for repeats of "The Avengers." These days Miss Rigg rations herself, making time for her husband, Archie Stirling, Scots landowner and son of one of the founders of the SAS, and their daughter.

After Chichester, she will "sink back into obscurity" for another chunk of time. "It's not necessarily all that brilliant for one's career, because you can't expect everyone to accomodate it. But I don't regret for an instant whatever I miss by pursuing a rhythm in my life."

Nevertheless, though, wasn't all this break-taking a bit too laid-back? Shouldn't she be pursuing her ambitions with single-minded determination, etc? Was she not denying the full flowering of her talent as a great actress, etc? "That's a cliche, isn't it?" replied the lady. "That's the tradition...I certainly hope nodbody else reaches that conclusion...when I work, I work immensely hard and take it immensely seriously...the older I get (she's 46) the more interesting I think I am. I certainly feel capable of anything, with the possible exception of Juliet and Wendy Darling."

Actressy, I said, blithely, mainly on the strength of the length of her vowels. Does the popular stereotype of her calling offend? Yes. "We are not all unintelligent. We are not all vain and self-centered and spoilt and monstrous..." A pause, perfectly timed. "Mind you, we can't be dull." The photographer arrives. She strides off to apply some "lippie." Dull, she isn't.


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