Dame Diana Rigg, the acclaimed stage and screen actress, is to be the new Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University.

The Rada-trained actress will succeed Thelma Holt CBE as the tenth holder of the chair, which is associated with a professorship at St Catherine's College.

Plans for lectures and workshops by Dame Diana, who takes up the role in January, have yet to be finalised

The Chair of Contemporary Theatre was founded through a grant to St Catherine's College by the Mackintosh Foundation, to promote interest in contemporary theatre at Oxford.

Previous holders of the chair include playwright Alan Ayckbourn, actor Sir Ian McKellen, National Theatre director Richard Eyre and actor and director Lord Attenborough.

Dame Diana has enjoyed a long and successful career in the theatre, television and film.

But she will be best known to many for her television roles including Emma Peel in The Avengers, Bleak House, and Moll Flanders. She won a Bafta award for her portrayal of the obsessive matriach in Mother Love and an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mrs Danvers in a version of Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca.

Dame Diana's film credits include On Her Majesty's Secret Service, A Little Night Music and A Good Man in Africa.

She was accepted for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) in 1955 and made her professional debut as Natella Abashwili in a Rada production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the York Festival in 1957.

After treading the boards in repertory, she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1959.

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