The review that left Diana Rigg feeling flat: Avengers star recalls how critic described her breasts in 1971 nude scene as ‘insufficient flying buttresses
By SIMON CABLE
PUBLISHED: 17:00 EST, 17 January 2014 | UPDATED: 17:00 EST, 17 January 2014
t was a performance that earned her a prestigious best actress nomination.
But Dame Diana Rigg has revealed how her notorious nude scene in 1971 play Abelard and Heloise was lambasted by one theatre critic who chided her on the size of her breasts.
The 75-year-old actress recalled starring in the play on Broadway in New York. It tells the story of the twelfth-century romance between a priest and the head of a convent in France.
Dame Diana, then aged 33, appeared in the production opposite actor Keith Mitchell, and the pair both stripped for a love scene that shocked the audience.
Speaking about the subsequent reviews, she said one particularly acerbic critic called John Simon was scathing about her body.
‘An American critic wrote “Diana Rigg is built like a brick mausoleum with insufficient flying buttresses”.’ Pointing to her breasts, she added: ‘He was talking about those.’
Flying buttresses are a structural feature usually found on Gothic buildings which protrude in an arc from the outside wall.
She said that the remark had inspired her to compile and publish a collection of the worst theatrical reviews in history, called No Turn Unstoned.
Previously recalling the incident, she has said: ‘The press was there from all nations, panting as if I had another breast and he had two penises.
‘I think the controversy centred around the fact that we were the first establishment actor and actress to strip. But I believe it was germane to the plot.’
However, despite the barbed comment, Abelard and Heloise earned Dame Diana the first of three Tony Award nominations for Best Actress in a Play.
The star was speaking about the incident during her appearance on Sky One comedy show, The Kumars, which is being broadcast next Thursday at 10pm. It features a series of celebrities being interviewed in light-hearted fashion.
Dame Diana is best known for the role of Emma Peel in the TV series The Avengers, which she appeared in from 1965 to 1968.
On television, she starred in the 1989 BBC mini-series Mother Love, for which she won a BAFTA Award for Best Actress. She also starred in the 1997 adaptation of Rebecca, which won her an Emmy Award.
She was made a CBE in 1988 and a Dame DBE in 1994.
Speaking about the famous leather cat suit which she wore for iconic role in The Avengers, she said: ‘It was a b***er. That was an absolute b***er. It took me 45 minutes to go to the lavatory. You had to unzip yourself and leather gets hot and sticky and you just could not take it off. I did not have a cat flap.
‘They wrote the role for a man and then cast a woman. They did not write it for a woman as they were not as advanced as that, they were absolutely stupid. They then cast a woman and then they had this iconic figure and then they thought “Oh goody, aren’t we clever?.”
She added: ‘My mum used to respond to my fan mail. She was wonderfully practical. These guys used to write to me, they were about 16 or 17 and they were a bit saucy and my mum used to write back saying “My daughter is far too old for you, what you need is a good run round the block”.
Dame Diana lived with fellow actor Philip Saville during the 1960s, before marrying Israeli painter Menachem Gueffen in 1973. The divorced three years later and she went on to wed theatre producer Archibald Stirling in 1982.
The pair, who have a daughter, Rachael, divorced in 1990 following his affair with actress Joely Richardson.
Dame Diana and her daughter, who is also an actress, appeared in an episode of Doctor Who together last year.
GB: I guess we could find Mr. Simon and a) see what he looks like b) beat the crap out of him.
PS: I may have found a nude picture of Ms. Rigg, but most are fake. I have no way of telling...
Read more: Diana Rigg left feeling flat with by 1971 review that criticised her breasts | Mail Online