David Benedict on theatre

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Imelda Staunton (below) has walked away with musicals like Into the Woods, stolen notices in Chekhov (Uncle Vanya in the West End), excelled in comedy, (Sue Limb's Up the Garden Path) and made smart thrillers opposite Janet McTeer for the BBC. In between, she has somehow managed to find the time to have a baby, and is now directing for the first time.

'John Rogan came to me with this play and I thought, 'Why not?' I'd wanted to direct but hadn't, simply because of circumstances. Suddenly, here was the perfect opportunity. It gave me a chance to tax the old brain, and he'd done all the hard work like raising the money and so on, so here I am.

On Borrowed Time is a Capra-esque comedy written in 1938 and revived in the States a few years ago with George C Scott. 'It's set 'Down South' and you think it's going to be one of those down-on-the-farm numbers, when all of a sudden Death appears and it all goes a bit weird and surreal. I love that. The Grandfather sends Death up a tree and everyone has to face up to never having to die.'

'I don't have great vision. Maybe all I can do is be useful to an actor. I know I'm supposed to say how relevant it is; it may not be the world's greatest play, but it's fun and I like it. It's a bit funny, a bit sad, a bit mad, a bit poignant. . . It's hardly Deborah Warner material.'

'On Borrowed Time' previews from tonight at the Southwark Playhouse (071-620 3494)

(Photograph omitted)

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