Diana Rigg remembered: ‘Ma didn’t suffer fools: she exploded them at 50 paces’

11 months ago 176

When Ma recovered her crab was malignant, each the theatres went dark.

“Normally, erstwhile 1 gets atrocious quality similar this, 1 becomes the absorption of attention, but successful a pandemic, nary 1 gives a fuck!”

Mum was sick truthful of course there was an apocalypse.

I became my mother’s carer, cooking, shopping, medicating and shuttling her to and from vigor and chemo.

She refused to travel and walk Easter with america contempt being precise weak. “All implicit the state radical are choosing not to sojourn their families. I privation to honour their sacrifice.” Then connected Easter Sunday, our worst fear, she fell and fractured her spine. For the archetypal clip she complained of pain. Knowing Ma’s symptom threshold this would beryllium the equivalent of gratuitous medieval torture to you and maine due to the fact that she simply ne'er complained astir pain. “Apart from thing else, darling, it’s conscionable truthful boring.”

Diana Rigg with her daughter, Rachael Stirling, successful  1978.
Diana Rigg with her daughter, Rachael Stirling, successful 1978. Photograph: Chris Barham/Daily Mail/Rex/Shutterstock

I took her into hospital. A fractured lumbar. And, we were told, the crab was everywhere. I saw her look arsenic the surgeon listed the procedures helium was intending to execute connected her and I knew she had nary volition of enduring immoderate much than she already had. She told the doc what I already knew. He had the surname of a celebrated chutney truthful Ma simply called him “Lunch! Listen! Forgeddit! I’ve had enough!” She took him up connected his connection of the hideously named cyberknife surgery, which was precise radiotherapy to the brain. She wanted to spell retired “with each my grey substance intact, convey you!”

So this she did and aboriginal that week I was organising an ambulance to bring her and her firing-on-all-cylinders grey substance location to dice with maine and my boys. She had to beryllium persuaded. Not astir the dying bit, she was resigned to that: “Oh but I’ve had specified a life, Rachie!” She didn’t similar the nonaccomplishment of independence, hated the thought of being a load and flatly refused to usage the doorbell that Guy had taped to her bedside array successful lawsuit she needed help. She besides refused morphine arsenic it dulled her brain.

I had 30 alarms connected my telephone for each the medications. She called maine Nurse Ratched.

Rigg and Stirling successful  north-west Scotland successful  the aboriginal  90s.
Rigg and Stirling successful north-west Scotland successful the aboriginal 90s. Photograph: Courtesy of Rachael Stirling

Dignity: the astir important happening was to sphere her dignity, to marque definite she was not successful symptom and to marque definite she felt comfortable, harmless and loved. We had Camparis astatine 4 o’clock successful the afternoon, each afternoon, close up until the time she died. I organised visitors erstwhile allowed; fractional an hr was astir capable earlier she’d springiness the awesome to usher them out. We laughed each the clip astatine the darkest of things of course. Death laughs are the champion due to the fact that thing is disconnected limits. I person a diary of her past six months that would marque your eyeballs weep with laughter and wince with symptom each astatine once. Though I can’t carnivore to look astatine it.

She wanted to hole things earlier she left, 1 of which was my beloved’s health. One day, erstwhile I had accidentally fixed her treble steroids, she fondly patted my husband’s belly and said to him: “Guy! Tell maine the truth! When was the past clip you saw your willy?” To which helium replied: “For reasons it wouldn’t beryllium due to stock with my mother-in-law, I person nary occupation seeing my willy.” They howled. Mama and Guy fell successful love. He could decorativeness disconnected the past enactment of an obscure oversea shanty she remembered and they would sing aged jazz numbers and recite poesy together. That was a glorious thing. “Rachie, has anyone ever written a publication astir a parent who goes to unrecorded with her daughter, but past the son-in-law falls successful emotion with her due to the fact that she’s overmuch amended successful bed?” “No Ma, I don’t deliberation they have. After all, said girl would astir apt medicate aforementioned parent truthful she ne'er got retired of said bed, again.”

It wasn’t until I was astatine schoolhouse that I truly understood however celebrated my parent was. The lustful glint of designation successful the eyes of fathers astatine the schoolhouse gross was the giveaway. A fewer years ago, I was stopped successful the thoroughfare by a neighbour who said: “I conscionable privation you to cognize I cognize however it feels; my parent was beauteous too.”

Rigg arsenic  Olenna Tyrell successful  Game of Thrones.
Rigg arsenic Olenna Tyrell successful Game of Thrones. Photograph: Sky/HBO/PA

“Great!” said I. “Do let’s commencement a club!”

I’ve ever known I would ne'er beryllium a prima similar my mother. I’m a precise blessed moving actress. I consciousness incredibly thankful for my lot. I did spell to a fewer awkward auditions astatine the commencement of my vocation and not wanting to judge (or acknowledge) immoderate nepotism, I would flatly contradict being her girl astatine each successful the vain anticipation we mightiness speech astir thing else. I looked capable similar her for this to beryllium an evident and awkward fib. My mediocre cause was exasperated.

My Mother-Ship was the slightest complaining, astir courageous pistillate I person ever oregon volition ever know. She had not a hint of self-pity. She didn’t endure fools; she exploded them astatine 50 paces. The callous doc who, erstwhile asked by Ma however agelong she’d got, said: “If I had a lb for each time…” was swiftly rebuked with: “HOW FUCKING DARE YOU PATRONISE ME OR ANY DYING PERSON WITH THAT MEEEEEAAAAAANINGLESS PLATITUDE. GET OUT!”

Rigg arsenic  Cordelia successful  an RSC accumulation   of King Lear with with Paul Scofield successful  the rubric  role, directed by Peter Brook, 1962.
Rigg arsenic Cordelia successful an RSC accumulation of King Lear with with Paul Scofield successful the rubric role, directed by Peter Brook, 1962. Photograph: Photo by Angus McBean © RSC

Mama was a truth-teller. She loathed lies and liars much than thing connected Earth. Being caught telling an untruth by my parent was 1 of life’s large humiliations. She would shame you to the core. Just similar her concealed daytime TV heroine, Judge Judy.

She was besides Very Naughty. I can’t retrieve which mediocre histrion it was that had to instrumentality her manus astatine the extremity of a play, aft she’d copped it successful the plot, and present a grief-stricken code to the Corpse of Mother, but she had a lukewarm bedewed frankfurter successful her thenar waiting for him.

Oh she was fun. One of her schoolhouse reports reads “Diana has been tiresome successful the dormitory”. Well, I went to boarding schoolhouse and I tin archer you this is codification for “Diana was having excessively overmuch fun”.

Rigg successful  On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969.
Rigg successful On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969. Photograph: Danjaq/Eon/UA/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

She erstwhile took a precise recognisable nationalist treasure to a enactment shop. He had confessed to her that enactment with his woman was connected the wane truthful she took him to Soho, marched into the emporium and loudly instructed: “GRAB A BASKET, DEAR!”

She was ever curious. Her caput was ever engaged. She work prodigiously. She tested herself constantly; learning large swathes of poesy conscionable to spot if she could. She said to the Cyberknife man: “I shall beryllium reciting Katherine’s code astatine the extremity of Taming of the Shrew and if I get a connection incorrect I’ll cognize you’ve FUCKED it UP!” She was wholly self-educated, having been dropped disconnected astatine 1 appalling boarding schoolhouse aft another.

She had projects connected the spell astatine each times. One was the thought of updating her publication of actors’ gloriously atrocious theatrical reviews, No Turn Unstoned. I precocious recovered different record with her notes connected the past of the American theatre and its criticism, which she had started successful New York a fewer years agone portion doing 187 performances of My Fair Lady connected Broadway. For her 80th day during the tally she took implicit a bookstore successful Lower Manhattan, invented a cocktail called Dame Diana’s Dynamite and boogied til dawn with each the blistery young dancers. She was disgusted erstwhile she heard that the histrion playing Eliza had decided to person Sundays disconnected to beryllium with her family. She made it known to a writer and became persona non grata backstage. She didn’t springiness a hoot. If your sanction is connected the billboard, you amusement up for each show.

Rigg and Stirling successful  2005.
Rigg and Stirling successful 2005. Photograph: Jane Bown

We didn’t ever get on. There was tremendous love, but it was a achy narration for some of america astatine times. When we asked her to travel and unrecorded with us, I had nary thought however hard it would beryllium oregon however traumatic. Yet it was the top privilege to assistance her to dice arsenic comfortably arsenic I could and she returned that kindness with a stoicism that shielded maine from her darkest moments. We showed each different a emotion without end, successful the end. One time she said: “Rachie, it’s astir arsenic if we are the aforesaid person.” And it was.

There is truthful overmuch much to say; of her fervent content successful the close to dice and the recordings we made astatine her request, wherever she stated her impassioned statement for dying with dignity. But that is for different day.

There can’t beryllium galore who acquisition going to a cinema to spot their precocious genitor successful a hotly anticipated movie from a cult director. I was dreading seeing Last Night successful Soho. I wasn’t definite I was acceptable to spot her truthful afloat of life, and truthful recently. In the end, it was seeing her hands putting down a cupful of beverage that truly broke me. I knew and loved each freckle there. I ran retired of the cinema astatine the extremity to get tissues and determination was Dear Edgar waiting to spot what I thought. I deliberation it’s magnificent; Mama’s Blackstar.

Only, situation I say, it’s a wee spot much fun.

I’ve asked for a plaque to beryllium enactment up for her successful the actors religion successful Covent Garden. “Only benches left,” they said. “No 1 ever sat connected my mother!” I said. I couldn’t slumber for reasoning what to enactment connected the thing, past abruptly it came to me:

Dame Diana Rigg
First Appearance
Called to Rehearsal 2020
Well and Truly Beloved