IT was entirely fitting that Dame Harriet Walter’s whistle-stop tour of the role women have played throughout British theatre took place at the Kenton.
From Nell Gwyn, a brilliant actress of the age but now sadly only remembered as a royal consort and orange vendor, to Olga Knipper, Chekhov’s wife and muse, Dame Walter reminded us that throughout history, theatres (even the genteel Kenton perhaps) were considered dens of iniquity.
A place where when women reached a certain age they had to find the support of a rich man or face penury.
This meant actresses past a certain age simply didn’t exist and so quite naturally playwrights didn’t write roles for them — a problem which survives to this day.
Warming to her theme she explained that the British film industry is dominated by Hollywood, Hollywood is all about dreams, and — quoting the poet Anne Sexton — she laughed “noone is 80 in their dreams”.