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LETTICE AND LOVAGE by Peter Schaffer
Venue: The Globe (Gielgud) 1988
Director:  Michael Blakemore

Lettice Douffet Maggie Smith
Lotte Schoen Margaret Tyzack
Mr Bardolph
Richard Pearson
Surly Man
Bruce Bennett
Miss Farmer
Joanna Doubleday


Peter Shaffer's latest play is a jeu d’esprit in which the esprit struggles against the philistines and against all the odds gloriously wins.  As the embodiment of that esprit Maggie Smith, playing the adorable Lettice Douffet, of French extraction, and with a rather lethal dose of the theatrical in the blood, battles with daring and invention, pitting her generous wits against the embittered domineering  Lotte Schoen (Margaret Tyzack). It is a play about imagination as the life force, struggling endlessly with the powers of darkness, and the casting of these two actresses in the main parts is a stroke of genius in itself. As for Schaffer, he has produced a comedy to rank with the smartest and in creating Lettice, who revels in the language of romance as in that of the theatre, we can only stand by and watch with envy at such sheerly enjoyable indulgence.

At curtain-up we discover Lettice conducting a tour of the Grand Hall of Fustian House, not once but three times, and rising to such a pitch of invention and embroidery in her account of Queen Elizabeth the First falling headlong down the stairs that she is accused by Lotte Schoen  of cooking history—if it's a dull, Lettice feels she should “have had a hand in it”. Lettice gets the sack and the rest of the play is devoted to the strange relationship that develops between ‘artiste’ and bureaucrat, culminating in an apparent assault and battery to be sorted out by an extremely bewildered solicitor, Richard Pearson.  Impeccably directed by Michael Blakemore, and with designs by Alan Tagg, Shaffer's play puts the West End back on the map.