Peggy For You, Hampstead Theatre review: Tamsin Greig plays it cool in this biting classic

It’s late at night, or early in the morning, towards the end of the 1960s. Margaret “Peggy” Ramsay – the foremost play agent of her time, her client list a roll-call of post-war playwriting talent – is reclining on her office chaise-longue, devouring a script.

Heedless of the time, she gropes about for the phone, disturbs – in fact wakes, rather to her disapproval – the writer in question and delivers her opinion on his opus. “I think it’s wonderfully written,” she purrs. A pause: “but that’s really the problem.”

There, in the funny, biting opening vignette of Alan Plater’s Peggy For You, lies enshrined the open all hours and suffer no fools approach of Ramsay at her eccentric and industrious height, long before Alzheimer’s, then, in 1991, death claimed her.

A hit for Hampstead in 1999, with Maureen Lipman in the title role, and Tamsin Greig now doing the honours in a fresh revival, Plater’s play asserts a simple truth about its subject. She barely cared about conventional success, put Art on a pedestal.

Here, she holds court – and takes phone calls via her secretary (hence the title) – in her play-crammed, plant-dotted eyrie off St Martin’s Lane. But even when she’s quiet, Greig’s heroine is legibly impatient with mediocrity. She squints at quickly flapped pages, her legs draped like an afterthought on the couch, her skirt casually hitched up.

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