On Oct. 3 at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, the two 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 two women whose lives are linked by a man. 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 courses 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 the two 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 with Judi Dench in Amy's View. The Breath of Life has plenty of humor, as well as being deeply moving.