When Blanche Marvin moved to her flat in London, it was on a temporary basis, until she could find somewhere more suitable. That was 50 years ago. Rent was £8 a week: “It was déclassé to live above a shop, so it was cheap,” she says in her throaty, well-bred New York accent. She has rented it for so long that she now has residents’ rights. And besides, no one would dare turf this small but formidable nonagenarian on to the street: she has gale-force opinions on everything from plastic bags to actors.
Marvin, a former actor and producer, is probably one of the most active theatre critics you’ve never heard of. At 93, she still goes to the theatre “most nights”, and writes thorough reviews which she publishes at blanchemarvin.com. She regards her pieces as providing a service; they are written, she says, for the industry – directors, producers, other critics. “My reviews don’t put bums on seats. I’m older than anyone else – I’ve seen the originals, I can provide the context. Critics used to be authorities. Now they’re just journalists. I’m the only one left.”