Previewed 4 October 2002, Opened 15 October 2002, Closed 1 March 2003 at the Haymarket Theatre in London
David Hare's new play A Breath of Life starring Maggie Smith and Judi Dench.
A compelling tale of two women whose lives are interwoven in ways neither of them yet understand. Madeleine Palmer is a retired curator, living alone on the Isle of Wight. One day to her door comes Angela Beale, 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 cast for The Breath Of Life features Judi Dench as 'Angela Beale' and Maggie Smith as 'Madeleine Palmer', they are directed by Howard Davies.
"David Hare's rich, beautifully written play has an extraordinarily narrow focus - just a single meeting between two sixty-something women over one evening and the following morning. His achievement is to contain two whole lives within this single meeting, two lives which still have some 20 years yet to be lived, the nature of which will be coloured by their ability to finally resolve their relationships with Martin - and with one another... The acting in Howard Davies's production is flawless... Maggie Smith has the sharpest, funniest lines, and a particularly waspish streak of anti-Americanism which she delivers with her customary sting... Judi Dench's bruised and wounded Frances has a more difficult task, gradually letting go of the pain, anger and bewilderment she has dammed up for decades. She does it beautifully." The Mail on Sunday
"Maggie Smith and Judi Dench haven't been on stage together for 40 years. These two dames of the British theatre slug it out in an evening of high style, albeit in a rather watery new play by Sir David Hare. The dames play two women who have loved the same man, a radical lawyer we never meet... It is an evening full of funny one-liners and Smith knocks them all for six... Dench is terrific too, at one point crying real tears for a life that has gone down the pan. Howard Davies directs the production invisibly to the sound of seagulls, but there is an off-putting air of 'masterpiece theatre' about it all... Make no mistake: the two dames are simply terrific, a true pleasure to watch and, as evenings go, it's good, but it is not that good." The Daily Express
"As for for Mr Hare, this is not his best. Judi Dench and Maggie Smith's consummate skills saved a work that often bordered on the ordinary... Watching the Dames putting each other through their paces was at times thrilling. And, characteristically, Hare's dialogue was sometimes cracklingly clever and funny... All amusing stuff, but I couldn't help feeling that there was something of the 'so what' about this whole exercise... These two superstars didn't disappoint. But at times the material did. It was perfunctory and you wonder how The Breath of Life will fair in the hands of lesser mortals." The Daily Mirror
The Breath of Life in London at the Haymarket Theatre previewed from 4 October 2002, opened on 15 October 2002 and closed on 1 March 2003.