On theatre

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Writing lyrics is nothing new to Diana Morgan. She was writing them for the late, great Hermione Gingold back in 1933. In addition, she was a contract writer for Ealing Studios, had a string of West End acting credits from 1931 onwards and wrote plays, revues and a TV series. 'I'm Britain's oldest living playwright,' she says.

At 86 there can't be too much competition, but she's not resting on her laurels. Dan Crawford, of the King's Head, is to produce a new version of her 1964 play The Dark Stranger, starring Ruth Madoc, next year. 'I'm terribly pleased. I've always been rather fond of that play. You don't always think that about things you've written.' Her current project is The Secret Garden (right) which has just opened.

Steven Markwick - a mere 55 years her junior - wrote the score for this musical adaptation. All the song titles are taken directly from the book. 'I wrote it seven years ago and this is its third production. I saw a run-through yesterday and it's awfully good, especially the children.' Despite fairly obvious staging problems (the garden?), the book has inspired endless adaptations. 'Mine was the first,' she insists. 'Then there was a big Broadway version, but that was full of ghosts and things. Quite unlike the book. I wouldn't dream of doing that. After all, I should hate someone to do something awful with my work.'

'The Secret Garden' plays matinees only at the King's Head (071-226 1916). See Beyond the West End, North

(Photograph omitted)

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