Actress Judi Dench rules on stage despite age taking toll

Tue Mar 26, 2013 12:05pm EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Reuters) - Actress Judi Dench may be battling deteriorating eyesight and a failing memory but the veteran performer showed no sign of faltering when she teamed up with fellow James Bond star Ben Whishaw on a London stage on Monday.

Dench, 78, one of Britain's most-respected actresses, has tackled a list of stage and film roles over her career, at ease with Shakespeare as in Hollywood, playing M in seven Bond movies before bowing out of 007's life in last year's "Skyfall".

It emerged a year ago that Dench was suffering from macular degeneration, the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over 60, and she relied on friends to read scripts to her.

This month she told a television interview she took fish oil tablets daily to boost her memory and remember her lines but said she had no intention of slowing down or stopping acting.

Dench won nothing but praise on Tuesday for joining 32-year-old Whishaw, the gadget guy Q in James Bond, in a new play, "Peter and Alice", by American playwright John Logan who co-wrote "Skyfall".

"(Dench) lends to Alice her brilliance at combining a sense of tart, witty combativeness with a reverberant depth of bruised humanity," wrote critic Paul Taylor in the Independent although he was less enamored with the play, giving it three stars out of five.

"Dench is unmatchable," raved the Times critic Libby Purves, giving the play that "breaks your heart open" five stars.

Logan's play imagines a real-life meeting between an elderly Alice Liddell Hargreaves and 30-something Peter Llewellyn Davies at a Lewis Carroll exhibition in 1932, the people who inspired Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" and J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan".   Continued...

Actress Judi Dench arrives for the royal world premiere of the new 007 film "Skyfall" at the Royal Albert Hall in London in this October 23, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett/Files