Peggy For You, Hampstead Theatre


Verdict: Theatrical nostalgia

This Christmas comedy royalty will be at Hampstead Theatre, where Tamsin Greig leads a revival by Richard Wilson of an Alan Plater play.

Greig is best known from Friday Night Dinner — and no one will ever forget Wilson’s comic miserabilist, Victor Meldrew, from TV’s One Foot In The Grave.

Greig portrays the legendary literary agent Peggy Ramsay. Greig is a colorful and indiscreet character that was revered and feared by all theatre worlds.

Between the 1950s and her death in 1992, she was a representative of some of Britain’s best playwrights.

Curtain call: Tamsin Greig and Jos Vantyler

Curtain Call: Tamsin Greig & Jos Vantyler

Plater was also one of her subjects. His love letter to Maureen Lipman was first performed by Maureen Lipman before being transferred to the West End in 1999. 

The action takes place in late 1960s and is set up in Ramsay’s office. It’s located on St Martin’s Lane, up steep stairs. 

Some of the fun comes from trying to identify the writers under discussion — in particular, boozy leftist ‘David’ who she has to bail out of police custody. Hare could it be? The two Alans — one in Scarborough (Ayckbourn) and the other in Hull (Plater) — are easier.

Ramsay’s playful interactions with others, as well as the humorous one-liners, are the greatest pleasure. Rare literary conversations are also seasoned with a lot of sage. She airily declared that ‘a play’ is ‘a rasping fart on the face of fate’.

Some of Plater’s stories have the ring of historical truth — especially her denial that she told Laurence Olivier to f*** off. “It was Peter Hall!” She protests.

Peggy, in Greig’s hands, is batty.

The leather office chair she is using has a leather seat, and her feet are propped up on the desk stuffed with manuscripts. Her secretary makes her roll a joint so that she can learn why the marijuana is illegal.

We don’t get so much of what Plater calls ‘imperious’, ‘intimidating’ or ‘prejudiced’ — although at one point she cheekily sniffs that Northerners ‘were all born in a huff’.

This makes her more approachable and less aggressive. It also weakens Plater’s dramatic denouement.

However, Ramsay might be content with Greig’s mysterious, evasive style. She also played with Josh Finan’s Simon, a young writer aspirant who wanders into her office.

Jos Vantyler’s Philip is a Savile row spiv she’s fallen in love with; and Danusia Samal, her secretary, is obsequiously captivating.

Only Trevor Fox as Henry, an outspoken Geordie writer, gets to stand up to her — and as a result, he’s much the best of the supporting characters.

He comes to tell her he has had enough — only to find himself fitting a carpet and discovering that Margaret Ramsay Ltd is a case of Hotel California: you can check out any time you like but you can never leave.

Most comfortable seat in house

East is East 

My theatre of the year is Birmingham Rep. And if you’re wondering why, check out Iqbal Khan’s 25th anniversary production of Ayub Khan Din’s play about an Anglo-Pakistani family in 1970s Salford, a co-production with the National Theatre., £7.99 to rent

Craig loves being an actor’s baddie 

Cinderella (Mayflower Theatre, Southampton)


Verdict: Fabulous, darling

Craig Revel Horwood’s witty comments on Strictly Come Dancing are so unwelcome that the contestants cannot answer him back. But in pantoland, everyone gets their say — and the audience at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton enthusiastically tell him exactly what they think of his character, Baroness Hardup, each time she sashays on stage.

He’s a baddie, and the jeers are loud. Alan McHugh has written this fun family show. He delights in exposing the worst. The script is filled with enough jokes for adults to keep them laughing, and the little ones will be happy thanks to the many fart gags.

Thom Southerland’s show is full of energy. He has a great team, including Richard Cadell (who appears with Sooty), who manages crowd participation and keep the show moving.

The boos rain down but it’s all good-humoured as he, er, revels in playing the baddie. He happily hams up the evils in this family-friendly show, written by Alan McHugh

He’s a baddie, and the boos are falling. But it’s still all fun-hearted. Alan McHugh wrote this show for families that he enjoys hammering up the bad guys.

His name is above the title. This panto features a variety of dance routines, and he can even sing songs. This talented cast is featured in several pieces. Will Richardson, Prince Charming and Georgia Carr are sweetly paired.

Suzie Chard (as Cinderella) and Catherine Morris (as Tess and Claudia, the stepsisters of Cinderella), aren’t exactly what they were hoping for.

However, Debbie McGee is the Fairy Godmother and is sweet and sparkly. She is also a great sport on the stage and the transformation scene with the flying carriage and dancing pumpkins is truly a wow moment.

You have great fun, and as Mr Revel Harwood may say, it is ‘Fabu-lous!

Jusqu’au February 2,

Veronica Lee