The first play of 2022, so I won’t be picky. A very decent comedy with an excellent performance by Tamsin Greig. It also nicely dovetails with the topic of this blog, as the play is about Margaret ‘Peggy’ Ramsay, who was a theatrical agent. I had fun, laughed, was in the theatre where I could see everything. There is just one minor complaint but I’ll save that for the end to tease you.
This is the official play 1 of the 12 Plays for 2022 (you can check out my progress and my posts here). I love Tamsin Greig and even had a chance to see her a few years ago in the musical version of The Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown (which was a double whammy, because I love that movie too).
The play charts one hectic day in the office of Peggy Ramsay, a theatrical agent, as she loses two writers and gains one. Initially, we find Peggy on her chaise long as she reads new plays sent to her deep into the night. Before that, she’s been to a police station to bail out one of her writers. This already gives us a taste of her relationship with the writers, it is not one that has boundaries.
Throughout the day we meet in person three other writers in Peggy’s stable, one aspiring, one at the peak of his success, and another one clearly past it. We also get to see Peggy talking to plenty of people on the phone, hence also the title for this is how her assistant announces Peggy’s calls.
While the text may have aged a bit since its premiere in 1990, Greig’s execution has been spot on. She is in turn flirtatious, sharp negotiator, stern mother, and caring lover depending on what the situation demands. The only thing we never see is who Peggy really is without her work. Because Peggy is her work, her sole point of existence is to get her writers to write good plays and get them staged. She does not promise her authors big fat checks. In fact, she prefers if they are living in debauchery and suffering, for in her mind that makes for the best writing.
Tamsin Greig moves between various Peggys swiftly and naturally, her light touch to be envied by the actors playing the writers. Some reviewers accused the play of saying nothing new, and it is true, but on the other hand, it is a comedy, so let’s not expect earth-shattering reveals. It shows the manic world Peggy occupies, but also her loneliness in the bubble she created herself. She is so devoted to art that everything else took second place, and in that she is alone, for even her writers eventually settle and create lives outside of writing.
All in all a very decent entertainment, something I sorely needed after almost two years of theatre deprivation.
Now on to my minor complaint. Hampstead Theatre’s current building is relatively new, having been built in 2003. Yet the seats are insanely uncomfortable. Insanely. The play was not long by any standards at 2 hrs 20 mins with an interval, but by the end of it, my bum was numb. I could feel my tail bone acting up for the next two days. So a word of warning, bring a pillow (they haven’t gotten yet to renting them as The Globe did). On the flip side, it is not a massive auditorium so you can comfortably see even from the further rows. I had the opera glasses that I got from a friend a few years ago, but you would be comfortable without them as well.