The Breath of Life
"The Breath of Life Closing -- Programme Giveaway" ...
Audience / Website Visitor Reviews (Major Spoilers)
According to: Ananova / Albermarle / This is London
Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench have extended their West End hit The Breath Of Life by a further eight weeks until March 1 after a sell-out run at London's Theatre Royal Haymarket.
I THINK they mean a "total" of eight weeks in all from the original closing date
-- which was December 21st. The Play is on Hiatus from Dec. 22nd through Dec.
Announcement from The
Theatre Royal, Haymarket
The Breath Of Life, which stars Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, is to extend its West End run by four weeks. The production was due to close at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, on December 21. But producers have announced the show will return on January 1 and will run until February 1. The play has been written by David Hare and is about two women whose lives are interwoven in ways neither of them yet understand. It is the first time the two actresses have appeared on stage together.
It is the double act of one's dreams, right up there with Morecambe and Wise, Jeeves and Wooster, Marks and Spencer, Nureyev and Fonteyn, Matisse and Picasso.
On October 15, Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith open together in the West End for the first time, in David Hare's new play The Breath of Life.
The producer Robert Fox hasn't taken out a single display advertisement, neither actress has been wheeled round the interview circuit, but the three-month run is already almost sold out. Dench and Smith are perhaps the only British actors who can fill a theatre on the strength of their names alone. Together they are box-office dynamite and, if Hare has produced a play worthy of their great and distinctive talents, we could be in for the kind of theatrical occasion of which legends are made.
When I compare these actresses to Matisse and Picasso, whose joint show drew huge crowds to Tate Modern, I am not being entirely facetious. Smith and Dench couldn't be more different, but I would hate to have to rank one above the other.
Smith is the Picasso of the partnership - angular, challenging, manifestly intelligent, difficult. She has always had more than a touch of mischief, even devilry, about her. Dench is more like Matisse - fleshy, welcoming, instinctive, warm. No one ever speaks a bad word of her. At the height of her career, she has reached a state of secular beatification.
Yet, despite their vastly different styles, they share certain qualities. Like the painters, both are instantly distinctive, not least through their marvellous voices.
Everyone who has ever written about Dench has tried to describe that amazingly touching and eloquent instrument but no one has done so better than the journalist Alan Franks, who wrote that her husky voice, with its "involuntary breaks and slight sob can charge spoken lines with the poignancy of a blues".
Smith's voice is very different, brilliantly precise and with a nasal twang that can lend even the most unpromising lines a devastating wit. It's one of the reasons why her famous insults are so cherished and so often impersonated in the theatre world.
She was, for instance, famously unhappy with Nicholas Hytner's production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Would she be taking it to Broadway, she was asked. "Broadway? I wouldn't take it to Woking," she replied.
On another occasion, Ronald Harwood stuck his nose into her dressing-room when she was appearing in his mediocre Interpreters and excitedly announced that he was now starting work on a new play. The actress fixed him with her basilisk stare and sweetly inquired: "Why don't you try finishing this one first?"
The strange thing is that the professional paths of Smith and Dench have so rarely crossed, despite careers and lives that often eerily echo each other, beginning with their birth within a couple of weeks of each other in December 1934, Dench the daughter of a York GP, Smith the daughter of a medical technician.
The two actresses became friends when they appeared in a couple of shows together at the Old Vic in the 1959-60 season and shared a dressing-room. "Jude was playing the ingenue - and I was not," said Smith at a recent Bafta tribute to Dench. "What I remember most about that time is that it was the beginning of friendship, and I remember laughter - more than anything in the world. Judi has been a huge support, and hugely loyal."
However, since those Old Vic days their only professional contact has been in two films - Merchant Ivory's A Room With a View (1988) and Zeffirelli's Tea With Mussolini (1999). Smith made the latter shortly after the death of her husband, Beverley Cross, and has acknowledged the support Dench gave her then. Recently, she has done the same for Judi following the death of Dench's equally beloved husband, Michael Williams. Such emotional ties seem to promise well for Hare's play, which concerns the meeting of two women, a retired curator (Smith) and a popular novelist (Dench) who once shared the same man.
Smith was initially the brighter of the two stars. She was one of the key figures in the early days of Olivier's National Theatre, where she met and married Robert Stephens. They looked like a star couple to rival Olivier and Vivien Leigh, but the marriage was turbulent and certainly not helped by Stephens's drinking. Smith returned to her first love, Cross, marrying him within months of her divorce from Stephens.
As well as enjoying success on stage, Smith became a bona fide movie star, winning the Oscar for best actress with her wonderful and surely definitive performance in the title role of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969). Another Oscar followed - for Neil Simon's California Suite - in 1978.
Infuriatingly, much of her best classical stage work took place not in England but in Stratford, Ontario. Bernard Levin described her Rosalind there as "one of the most glorious Shakespearean treasures of my life. She spoke the epilogue like a chime of golden bells; but what she looked like as she did so, I cannot tell you because I saw it through eyes curtained with tears."
In contrast, Judi Dench has only recently become a movie star (she won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love in 1998) after a lifetime devoted to classical theatre and an endearing sideline as the star of the much-loved sitcoms A Fine Romance - in which she appeared with her husband - and As Time Goes By, with Geoffrey Palmer.
She enjoyed glorious seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and has been a pillar of the National Theatre, triumphing as an improbable but bewitching Cleopatra (despite her fear that she "would be no more than a menopausal dwarf"), as a strangely lovable Lady Bracknell (a role also taken by Smith), and as the raddled proprietress of a Soho drinking club in Rodney Ackland's neglected 1940s masterpiece, Absolute Hell. If I close my eyes, I can still hear her desperate hungover howls at the end of the Ackland, which seemed to issue from a soul in torment.
What both actresses share, apart from great voices, is an ability to turn the mood on a sixpence, moving from beautifully observed comedy to a sudden, piercing emotional candour that seems to lay bare their very souls. I think of Smith's astonishing performance as Susan, the alcoholic vicar's wife in Alan Bennett's Talking Heads, of Dench's tears of exhaustion and relief at the end of de Filippo's Filumena, which seemed to release a pent-up dam of emotion right round the auditorium, and can only conclude that we are blessed to be living in an age when two such glorious actresses are in their prime.
Dame Judi and Roberta Tweedy at the NFA Gala held May 12, 2002
Regular Box-Office Ticket Sales begin July 8th
This is a compelling tale of two women whose lives are interwoven in ways neither of them yet understand. Madeleine Palmer (MAGGIE SMITH) is a retired curator, living alone on the Isle of Wight. One day to her door comes Angela Beale (JUDI DENCH), a popular novelist whom she has met only once before. The progress of a single night comes fascinatingly to echo the hidden course of their lives.
July 3, 2002 -- THERE is nothing like a Dame. Except two of them. Then they're box-office dynamite. Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith will appear for the first time on stage together in London this fall in "The Breath of Life," a new play by David Hare.
While the box office doesn't officially open until next week, a limited number of tickets went on sale on producer Robert Fox's Web site last week and were snapped up within 48 hours.
Sales via the Web site are said to have hit more than $300,000.
The show is expected to sell out a few days after the box office opens next week.
Fox has so much confidence in the Dench-Smith combination that he isn't even planning to advertise the play during its limited run, which begins in September.
Veteran London theater critic Clive Hirschhorn says "in terms of box office, Maggie Smith is probably the biggest draw in the West End."
Dench less so, if only because she appears fairly regularly on the London stage.
But together, the two great actresses will probably rival the drawing power of Madonna, who is currently giving a dreadful, though sold-out, performance in a terrible play called "Up for Grabs."
The big difference between Madonna and Dench-Smith (aside from acting ability, of course) is the average age of their audiences.
"You don't see anybody over the age of 35 at 'Up for Grabs,' " says Hirschhorn. "When you go to see Dame Maggie and Dame Judi, you won't see anyone under the age of 35."
In "The Breath of Life," Smith and Dench play two actresses who were once involved with the same man.
Plans are afoot to bring "The Breath of Life" - with its two stars - to New York in the fall of 2004.
Thanks to Mary Lynn T. and Meg for bringing this article to my attention
Dench And Smith Breathe Life Into
The West End
News by Paul Webb
Box Office opens for the two Dames in David Hare premiere 24-06-2002 Booking details have been announced for one of the most eagerly awaited theatrical pairings of recent years - that of Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith in a new play by Sir David Hare. From July 8 the box office will open for the premiere of Hare's The Breath of Life . The production has now finalised dates for its limited 12-week season at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. It will preview from October 4, with a press night on Oct 15 and will continue until December 21. Directed by Howard Davies, The Breath Of Life is a tale of two women whose lives are interwoven in ways neither of them yet understand. Madeleine Palmer (Maggie Smith) is a retired curator, living alone on the Isle of Wight. One day to her door comes Angela Beale (Judi Dench), a popular novelist whom she has met only once before. The progress of a single night comes fascinatingly to echo the hidden course of their lives.
The play which is designed by William Dudley goes into rehearsal in late August. Currently the two dames are busy with film commitments, Smith on the set of the second Harry Potter movie, The Chamber of Secrets, and Dench playing M in the latest Bond movie Die Another Day. It will be the first major pairing of the two actresses on stage although they have worked together on such films as Tea With Mussolini and A Room With A View. Dench is no stranger to the work of David Hare having appeared in his films Saigon, Year of the Cat and Wetherby and most recently his stage hit Amy's View.
The Daily Mail, Feb. 15, 2002
"Yes, it's the
theatrical coup of the year - two of our greatest dames, Judi Dench
and Maggie Smith, will appear together for the first time in the West
End this autumn in a new David Hare play.