Sitting opposite her, Tennessee Williams - the great unconsummated love of her life - laughed, and took note. Before long, the shard of bitchiness was immortalised in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Kit Hesketh-Harvey's play enfolds the audience in the tantalising intimacy that shaped the playwright and the Russian actress's lives, in a production glowing with the wit and warmth of their exchanges.
While Nichola McAuliffe glitters wickedly with Lady Maria's mordant humour, the shimmering depths in her performance also reveal how easily she could be caught by the heartstrings. Stefan Bednarczyk complements her perfectly as the artist, both defined and tortured by his sensitivity. Delightful.