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    Theatrically Rigged

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    She’s made only a handful of theatrical features, but quite a few of them are energized by her, just as her Royal Shakespeare Company stage work glistened with her intensity and the hit TV series The Avengers sparkled with style and elegance due to her foxy and sexy Emma Peel. Debuting as a captivating Helena in Peter Hall’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968), memorably becoming the only portrayer of Mrs. James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), adding salt and grit as George C. Scott’s rueful romantic interest in The Hospital (1971) and indelibly performing Stephen Sondheim’s Every Day a Little Death as the betrayed Countess Charlotte Malcolm in A Little Night Music (1977), Dame Diana Rigg brings the seal of quality to whatever she does, probably even the blowing out of her 78 birthday cake candles today. She’s now iconic to a new generation for her crafty and cunning matriarch Olenna Tyrell in the HBO fantasy series phenomenon Game of Thrones. Yet one more movie venture ranks high among her fans, as well as devotees of its legendary star Vincent Price, horror addicts, camp followers and even Shakespeare aficionados. Theatre of Blood (1973) is a delicious blend of humor, gore and theatrical grandiosity, a macabre package of marvelously overripe yet poignantly skewed acting and Rigg’s delightfully deranged Edwina Lionheart is one of its prime assets. Edwina is the devoted daughter of insane actor/manager Edward Lionheart (Price), a guy who never got a break from the petty, self-important members of the London Drama Critics Circle and was driven to suicide after being snubbed for the group’s coveted annual prize yet again. But what the censorious scribes don’t know is that Lionheart lives on – and that dad and daddy’s girl are going to ensure that each will play a magnificently Shakespearean death scene…for real. Rigg gamely dons all manner of male and female disguises in the elaborate scenarios that turn the screws on a cohort of award-worthy British acting giants playing the ill-fated reviewers – Harry Andrews, Coral Browne, Robert Coote, Jack Hawkins, Michael Hordern, Arthur Lowe, Robert Morley and Dennis Price – while Scotland Yard men Milo O’Shea and Eric Sykes are helpless to halt the effects of the Lionheart purge. Deftly directed by Douglas Hickox, Rigg, Price and company enact their diabolical duplicity across all manner of superb London locations, including a luxurious penthouse on the Thames and the dilapidated Putney Hippodrome Theater. Rigg’s contributions to Theatre of Blood went even further: she would introduce the then-unhappily married Price to future wife Browne, which would later result in that couple’s very happy marriage of nearly 17 years. Also, Rigg’s daughter Rachel Sterling would play her mom’s original part in a 2005 British stage adaptation opposite Jim Broadbent in the Price role. In 1982, Rigg penned the delightful compilation No Turn Unstoned: The Worst Ever Theatrical Reviews, featuring all manner of reportage from Ancient Greece to present-day, and proceeds from the book and the reading tour she undertook to promote it in the early 1990s were donated to theatrical charities. A Tony®, Emmy® and BAFTA Award winner, Rigg has a fine time playing the determined offspring of an award loser in Theatre of Blood, wreaking bloody havoc August 16 on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray. Preorders open July 27.