A peerless classical actor, Harriet Walter has recently hit new highs playing frosty matriarchs

Our drinks have not arrived – hell, we’ve not even seen a menu – and the great Dame Harriet Walter already appears to be having something of an existential wobble. By way of familiarising ourselves, I’d lobbed her a softball question about how she is coping with life and work during Covid. But I’ll quickly learn that Walter, the 71-year-old actress, royalty of British theatre, a Dame since 2011, prefers searing honesty and eviscerating self-awareness to small talk.

“I’ve become very confused about what I think,” she admits, as we settle in for lunch at a bougie brasserie in Chiswick, west London. “The trajectory one thought life was going on and why I was here and what good I was in the world suddenly went splat. A lot of things I was keeping at bay, like a sense of being a bit irrelevant, have come in on me.”

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