Diana Rigg attacks National Theatre's 'battery hen' facilities

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The actress Dame Diana Rigg has made a scathing attack on the facilities at London's National Theatre, where she is starring in a new play.

Dame Diana, who also pointed out that the National had "ignored her" for more than two decades, described the dressing rooms at the theatre as "battery-hen hatches".

She said: "As actors, we don't expect to be pampered, but we have to be in top form to go out there and do it. The conditions are absolutely ludicrous for a theatre built from scratch and it makes me cross every time I enter the building."

The dressing rooms, she said, are like "battery-hen hatches, completely without character, very noisy, and with little space or decent light."

Dame Diana, who is appearing in Humble Boy by Charlotte Jones, added that she was not asked to perform at the National for the first 20 years of its life, on London's South Bank, even though she had been a member of the original company under Laurence Olivier when it was based at the Old Vic theatre in the sixties.

She said: "I don't remember feeling miffed or anything. But I was very much part of the old guard"

Dame Diana's comments about the inadequte backstage facilities, aired in the National's own newsletter and reprinted in today's edition of The Stage, were endorsed by the actors' union Equity and by Peter Longman, the director of the Theatres Trust, the organisation that monitors the state of theatre buildings.

Mr Longman said: "Dame Diana Rigg has got to be one of the most respected and thoughtful people working in the business and if she feels inclined to say that then it is very significant. We share Equity's concerns that there is not enough spent on buildings and we warn against the temptation to spend money simply on what the public sees and not on what it does not see."

Ian McGarry, the general secretary of Equity, said that the union had received a number of complaints about the National's facilities.

He added: "They can be best described as adequate and we hope that, when consideration is given to the future of the building, conditions backstage are a top priority."

A National Theatre spokeswoman commented: "Ironically, our dressing rooms have just been improved. They are functional, but you don't get the luxury and the gilt mirrors of a West End dressing room."