Helen Maybanks

The latest entry in the Hampstead Theatre’s 60th anniversary season is a revival of Alan Plater’s biting comedy Peggy For You, directed by Richard Wilson.

Continuing the Hampstead Theatre’s anniversary season of reviving works that originated there, Peggy For You is a new production of Alan Plater’s witty play telling the story of formidable theatre agent Margaret Ramsay (Tamsin Greig) – or Peggy, to her clients – which debuted at the Hampstead back in 1999 and was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.

Over the course of a couple of hours, we are introduced to Peggy’s assistant and a number of her clients who have fallen under the spell of this unlikely heroine, who clearly loves her art (evidently more than she enjoys making money).

We’ll caveat this review by saying that it’s an extremely middle-class show – it assumes a sound general knowledge of plays and London’s theatre scene that may render it inaccessible to some. Quips about rewriting the endings for Waiting For Godot, or Othello, are genuinely amusing but require the audience to know the plots of these respective works to begin with. Having said that, we imagine it’s unlikely anyone would buy a ticket for a play about a theatre agent without having a passion for the art. Specifically, this is a show which celebrates those who seek out, develop and champion new works – which is quite a rare story to see play out.

Tamsin Greig absolutely steals the show here – we’re introduced to her immediately, draped over a chaise longue, at some indeterminate time in the early hours, working through a new play she’s been sent. The show is effectively a day in her life – we meet a new client and some of her existing ones, we hear about the death of another – it’s a fascinating snapshot into her life and we learn a lot about Peggy as she reacts to different pieces of information. It’s a brilliantly well-rounded and nuanced performance from Greig, portraying Peggy as a strong woman with an acerbic wit but with just an occasional glimpse into her vulnerabilities.

She’s ably supported by a talented cast throughout. In particular we warmed to long-suffering assistant Tessa (Danusia Samal) who, it transpires, is actually not called Tessa at all – Peggy just hasn’t bothered to learn her name – and we were also taken with Henry (Trevor Fox), one of Peggy’s clients. Henry’s role brings numerous moments of comic relief but also a bit of perspective to proceedings – he’s the only character openly critical of Peggy’s behaviour and attitudes towards her clients.

We enjoyed our evening with Peggy For You – Tamsin Greig may be the scene stealer here, but there are plenty of strong performances and an abundance of witty lines in this play. We’ve been enjoying the Hampstead Theatre’s season of reviving its original shows and this is probably our favourite so far. We are unfortunately in a period of uncertainty with theatres – who knows how much longer entertainment venues will remain open in the current circumstances – but if you’re able to pick up a ticket, you’ll enjoy your evening with this entertaining revival.

GAY TIMES gives Peggy For You – 4/5

More information can be found here.