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A Right Royal Knees Up at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 5th Jun 2016 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

Last night I saw Maggie Smith singing along with Pearly Kings and Queens, having earlier been dragged off stage.

Dame Maggie was only one of a galaxy of stars who gave up a Sunday evening to help raise funds for The Royal Theatrical Fund (which provides support for people of all ages who have worked in the notoriously uncertain entertainment industry) while also celebrating Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday with A Right Royal Knees Up.

She wasn’t the only one to be ‘hooked’.Others who were dragged off stage included Sir Derek Jacobi, Stephanie Cole, Samantha Bond and Maureen Lipman, and all for attempting to recite Shakespeare and the like.

For this really was a ‘knees up’, with the audience singing along with Michael Ball, the industrious Oompah Brass and Brian Conley, and TRTF president Robert Lindsay and Emma Thompson building up to the finale with songs from Me and My Girl.

Introduced by Robert Lindsay, and the disembodied voice of the first ever chairman of TRTF, Charles Dickens (ably spoken by compere Rob Brydon, who later did some cracking impressions of Alan Bennett and Michael Caine), the show began with a voice mail from Dame Judi Dench, extolling the virtues of turning off mobile phones. There was another voice message from Michael Palin (who said he’d gone to the wrong theatre - in Spain), while Mark Knopfler made a surprise appearance, taking over from Lindsay and Brydon’s entertaining attempts at playing guitars.

Highlights of the evening, apart from Dame Maggie’s surprise appearance which caused uproarious applause from the audience, included a moving, unaccompanied song from Imelda Staunton, joined onstage by her husband Jim Carter, a fleeting appearance by Joanna Lumley, complete with wine bottle in hand, and Janie Dee who, though dressed as Elizabeth I, sang a cheeky little number before leading the whole company in the National Anthem. And when the audience rose to their feet as one, as once audiences did, it brought a lump to my throat.



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