July 9, 2014


After discovering an enthusiasm for Shakespeare through David Tennant and Patrick Stewart in Hamlet, I became interested in finding out more about classic spy actors and their experiences with the Bard. As my last post covered a number of actors from James Bond, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Prisoner, The Avengers, and others, today we'll look at Diana Rigg (The Avengers). While fans celebrate Rigg for her portrayal of Mrs. Emma Peel, she has devoted most of her long career to the stage. She began her training at RADA in 1955 and has played roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company and others since 1959.  Some of her Shakespeare productions include King Lear (1964), Twelfth Night (1966), Macbeth (1972), Antony and Cleopatra (1985), and TV/film productions of A Midsummer's Night Dream (1959 and 1968), Julius Caesar (1970), Comedy of Errors (1964), and King Lear (1983). The Guardian asked her last March if her stage-work had been hampered by doing television, as Honor Blackman had experienced. Rigg's reply was, "I didn't have that problem. Some weeks I'd spend four days on set of The Avengers and then head up to Stratford to be Regan to Olivier's Lear." In addition to her appearances in Game of Thrones, she has also expressed an interest in returning to the RSC. "I don't want to retire," she said. "I never want to retire. What's the point of it?" Diana Rigg has also appeared in Spy Vibe faves: Doctor Who, The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries, PBS Mystery, The Assassination Bureau, and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Contrary to what fans might assume, the poem she recites to Blofeld in OHMSS was derived from a play by James Elroy Flecker. Below is a clip from A Midsummer's Night Dream starring Helen Mirren and David Warner, followed by images from some of her plays. Keep your eye out for an appearance with Robert Vaughn (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.). The last image comes to us directly from Richard Sala's original scrapbook! Diana Rigg Shakespeare on Amazon: Love's Labour's Lost, Julius Caesar (with Vaughn), Midsummer Night's Dream, and Olivier's King Lear. Learn more: Shakespeare Uncovered, RSC. Read our interviews with writer/artist Richard Sala from 2009 and 2014. Enjoy!

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  1. as far as Rigg and Shakespeare, don't forget her with Vincent Price in Theater of Blood, a terrifically fun little horror movie.

  2. great! i had seen that listed, but didn't catch the shakespeare connection: http://www.amazon.com/Theater-Blood-Vincent-Price/dp/B00005K3OD/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404948815&sr=8-1&keywords=theatre+of+blood

  3. The London stage is replete with British film and tv stars honing their skills. It is considered a rite of passage for them. That is why they are so versatile and held in such esteem in America.