Peggy Ramsay (Tamsin Greig) is a play agent, but she is more famous than the playwrights and the work that she represents. Written by Alan Plater, a client of the real Peggy, the play is set in her office in the late 1960s and covers a day in her life.
It opens with Peggy reposed on a chaise lounge, reading play scripts. As she reads them, she makes a series of phone calls through which we learn it is early morning, and she's been up all night bailing out one of her clients who has had a brush with the law.
We also learn that Peggy has little regard for the hour and the disturbance that her early calls cause.
As the day progresses, there's the arrival of a promising young playwright Simon (Josh Finan), who, when told what he has written isn't a play, asks: 'What is a play?' It becomes a running theme as Peggy asks various clients for their answers.
Then there is her golden boy playwright, Philip (Jos Vantyler), who arrives announcing that he is getting married, much to Peggy's chagrin - she believes it will kill his creativity. And a disgruntled ex-golden boy Henry (Trevor Fox) visits to tell Peggy he is tired of her interference.
To add to the office bustle, the phone regularly rings. Her secretary Tessa (Danusia Samal), handles calls and other demands, like buying an atlas so Peggy can see where two Yorkshire based playwrights live.
Peggy For You is a character piece where the activity is designed to show who Peggy was and how she was rather than taking her on a journey.
It shows us a woman whose charm gave her license to be direct, sometimes brutally so. Was it strategic? It doesn't appear so.
She is also utterly unapologetic - demonstrated not least by constantly mixing up names and places. When she confuses two characters in two different plays, she is accused of not paying attention but emphatically demonstrates the opposite.
Tamsin Greig's CV demonstrates her comedy acting mettle, and here Peggy's lines are delivered with an off the cuff razor sharpness. And there are plenty of gems, many seemingly having an irreverent poke at the very world of theatre that she inhabits.
If you are a theatre regular or familiar with a lot of theatre, plenty will amuse.
Peggy For You is laugh out loud funny, and highly entertaining in the main. Does it draw any conclusions? No, this is Peggy's train, and we are just passengers for a while enjoying the ride.
It's a snapshot of a life rather than a play with a character arc. If you enjoy being in the company of Peggy and inhabiting her world for a while, you will love it.
I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
Peggy For You, Hampstead Theatre
Written by Alan Plater
Directed by Richard Wilson
Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes include an interval
Booking until January 22, more information and tickets here on the Hampstead Theatre website.
Covid safety measures: There are temperature checks on arrival and masks are a condition of the ticket sale. There are signs on entry to the theatre and ushers have signs inside. You can't take drinks into the auditorium, only water. This is a recent change.
Compliance: I didn't see anyone not wearing a mask although a couple of people only had a mask covering their mouth.