Produced by Michael Codron and directed by Robin Lefevre this new play by Alan Plater is a delightful and charming drama that gives us an insight into the legendary, eccentric and inspirational literary agent, Peggy Ramsay. Peggy helped craft the careers of many playwrights from her office at 14a Goodwin's Court, St Martin's Lane. Her 400 or so clients included David Hare, Christopher Hampton, Joe Orton, Alan Ayckbourn and Alan Plater himself. The whole story is basically fiction, but it does give us an idea of what kind of person Peggy was.
The play is set on an imaginary day in the life of Peggy in the late 1960's. There are three writers in the play all at different stages of their development. There is Simon, a gawky new writer, Philip, the golden boy who is "flavour-of-the-month", and then there is Henry, a mature writer who is becoming disillusioned with Peggy. It is very interesting the way Peggy interacts with all three in her frightening, bullying, and yet caring way.
Peggy Ramsay was feared and loved by her writers. It is said that she did not like spending money on her office, employees or herself. Her only concern was for her writers who always came first. Peggy died in 1991 a millionaire and all the money went into a Foundation to encourage writers.
The performance of Maureen Lipman as 'Peggy Ramsay' is superb. It is said in the program notes that Michael Codron would only produce the play if Maureen Lipman agreed to play the lead. Michael's perception was spot on because this play certainly needed an actress that could confidently pull off the mannerism and statue of Peggy, and Lipman shows us she is the perfect person for the part. She shuffles around the office continuously pulling up her skirt and ruffling through papers while dominating everyone around her with her sharp tongue and strong opinions.
There are adequate performances from Richard Platt as 'Henry', Crispen Redman as 'Philip' and Tom Espiner' as Simon, and a particular good performance from Selina Griffiths as 'Tessa', Peggy's suffering secretary.
The set design by Liz Ascroft is impressive, capturing Peggy's small office convincingly with theatre pictures and posters covering all the walls and scripts littered everywhere. The set gives you a feeling of actually being in the office yourself, or rather it did for me 5 rows back in the stalls.
The play does not have much of a plot and it certainly is not fast paced, but it is an enchanting and warm drama that will mildly amuse you while giving you an interesting insight into a theatrical legend.
Not a great play, but well worth seeing.