Skip to main content

Desert Island Discs

Diana Rigg

Diana Rigg in The Avengers. Popperfoto/Getty Images

Last Night in Soho is in cinemas now – the final film Diana Rigg starred in before her death in 2020. Her acting career got off to a rocky start. When she left Rada in the 1950s, no one would hire her, she told Roy Plomley on Desert Island Discs in 1970. “I was large and juvenile – and theatre, in those days, had no room for large juveniles. They had to be small and blonde and helpless.” So she did odd jobs: modelling and a summer season in Scarborough, “living off £7.10 a week and lots of herrings”. Eventually her height paid off. Rigg joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford and played Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Helena’s the beanpole, isn’t she, asks Plomley. “The maypole,” insists Rigg.

In 1965, Rigg got the part of secret agent Emma Peel in The Avengers. The series was a hit and suddenly she became a star. Once it ended, the world was your oyster, says Plomley. What did you do? “Clammed up,” Rigg replies. “I went away for a long time.” She was coaxed back with an offer to play Helena at Stratford again, this time in a film adaptation. “I always go back to Stratford.”

🎵 Adagio in G minor, Albinoni

🎵 In a Silent Way, Miles Davis

🎵 The Jewels of the Madonna, Ermanno Wolf‐Ferrari

🎵 Concerto for Flute and Harp in C major, Mozart

🎵 At a Secret Beach, Mikis Theodorakis

🎵 Symphony No 5, Carl Nielsen

🎵 What a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong

🎵 Gymnopédie No 1, Erik Satie

📕 Primary instruction in all languages

🎁 A vegetable garden

Listen to the episode here.