This October at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, two of the greatest living actresses of their age, Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench, will come together for the first time on a West End stage in the world premiere of David Hare's new play, The Breath of Life.
Directed by Howard Davies, they will be playing women whose lives have intersected in a wholly unexpected way. During a single, extraordinary night, Madeleine Palmer (Smith), a retired curator, and Angela Beale (Dench) a popular novelist, who have met only once before, spend an evening together in a way that comes fascinatingly to echo the hidden course of their lives.
David Hare is not just one of our most distinguished playwrights; he is also a superb writer for women. In The Breath of Life he has created a two-person play that seems tailor-made for two of the most distinguished actresses we have.
Both Dame Maggie and Dame Judi are noted for their wit — on and off stage — and this has frequently been used to devastating effect by playwrights; Alan Bennett with Maggie Smith in Bed Among the Lentils, and David Hare in Amy's View with Judi Dench. The Breath of Life has plenty of humor and is also deeply moving. Given their talent and their box-office draw, and that of both Hare and Howard Davies, the director (whose production of Private Lives won several Tonys on Broadway recently), this play is easily the most important West End event this year.
Maggie Smith and Judi Dench have appeared together on film — most notably in "A Room With a View" back in the mid 1980's, and more recently in Zeffirelli's Tea With Mussolini — but this is their first West End venture, one made all the more intense by the fact that they are the only two characters in the play, so their vast number of fans will certainly get their money's worth of both actresses.
Through a unique association with the producers, tickets for The Breath of Life are now available exclusively online at theatrenow.com; they do not go on sale via the theatre's box office until July 8.
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow