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The Night Nurse
Dame Eileen Atkins was born in London and attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Her initial London stage appearance was in Robert Atkins' staging of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park. Seasons in repertory followed, including two years with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon. She went on to star at the Old Vic in many Shakespearean roles, among them Miranda and Viola.
Venturing into contemporary plays, Dame Eileen won the 1965 Evening Standard Award for Best Actress for her performance as Childie in Frank Marcus' play The Killing of Sister George, and then made her New York stage debut in the play. Her wealth of U.K. stage credits also includes portraying Saint Joan and Medea; and presenting an evening of T.S. Eliot's poetry at the Lyric Theatre. She won a Variety Club Award for her role as Elizabeth in Robert Bolt's Vivat! Vivat! Regina; won the London Critics Circle Award, and was nominated for an Olivier Award, for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Richard Eyre's staging of Tennessee Williams' The Night of the Iguana; and received an Olivier Award for her performance in Peter Hall's staging of Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale.
In 1989, she garnered unanimous acclaim for her one-woman show, A Room of One's Own, in which she portrayed Virginia Woolf. The off-Broadway production brought her a Drama Desk Award for Best Solo Performance; and a Special Citation from the New York Drama Critics Circle. She then toured the U.S. in the show, later taping the project for U.K. television on location at Girton College, Cambridge (the venue of Mrs. Woolf's original lecture). She would return to the role in 1992 with Vita and Virginia, which she wrote and starred in (opposite Penelope Wilton as Vita Sackville-West) for the U.K. stage as well as in the U.S. (opposite Vanessa Redgrave of Evening). The latter production earned Dame Eileen a second Special Citation from the New York Drama Critics Circle, for both her playwriting and her performance.
Among her recent stage credits are, in the U.K., Anthony Page's staging of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance, which brought her a (London) Evening Standard Award; in the U.K. and New York, Matthew Warchus' staging of Yasmina Reza's The Unexpected Man (for which she won an Olivier Award); and, on Broadway, Daniel Sullivan's staging of William Nicholson's The Retreat from Moscow (for which she was nominated for a Tony Award and won an Outer Critics Circle Award).
Dame Eileen's many television appearances include Simon Langton's miniseries Smiley's People; Norman Stone's telefilm The Vision; Nigel Finch's telefilm The Lost Language of Cranes; and Mike Nichols' telefilm Wit.
In addition, she co-created, with Jean Marsh, the classic television series Upstairs Downstairs. For her screenplay adaptation of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway (which starred Vanessa Redgrave of Evening and was directed by Marleen Gorris), she won the Evening Standard Award for Best Screenplay.
Dame Eileen's other film acting roles include ones in Sidney Lumet's Equus; Peter Yates' The Dresser; Peter Medak's Let Him Have It; Mike Nichols' Wolf; Mira Nair's Vanity Fair (also for Focus Features); and three recent Academy Award-winning movies: Robert Altman's Gosford Park, Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain, and Stephen Daldry's The Hours (the cast of which included Toni Collette, Claire Danes, and Meryl Streep, all also of Evening, and with whom she shared a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination).