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The Twenty Four Hour Plays Celebrity Gala,
The Old Vic


Richard Armitage was one of the actors appearing in a fund-raising gala at the Old Vic theatre in London on 21st November 2010.

In what is now an annual event, The Twenty Four Hour Plays Celebrity Gala gives a cast of actors, writers and directors 24 hours in which to create, rehearse and perform six short plays. All the participants meet at 10pm the previous evening, everyone having been asked to bring along one prop, which the writers can incorporate into their plays if they wish. The actors and directors then leave for the night, while the writers choose their casts and spend the night in a hotel writing their plays. These are then rehearsed the next day, culminating in the performance that evening.

Richard appeared in the first of the plays, The Third Wish, written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Charlie Westenra. Like most of the other plays, it was a comedy and the cast also included Miranda Raison (his former co-star from Spooks), Niamh Cusack and Debbie Chazen. He played Dennis, the husband in a couple who'd inadvertently bought a magic Christmas tree (a miniature tree that had been brought along by one of the participants the previous evening.) As Debbie, his wife, explained to her two sisters, she'd happened to say that she wished their flat was bigger, and it had suddenly transformed into a spacious apartment, This was a neat way of explaining the set, as all of the plays were performed on the Act 3 set of Noel Coward's Design for Living, which was playing at the Old Vic during that week. It depicted a luxurious New York City penthouse in the 1930s.

She said that Dennis (off-stage) had made the second wish, and she wanted advice from her sisters about what the third wish should be. The overweight and balding Dennis had wished to look like Richard Armitage. He made his entrance at that point. The wish had clearly come true...

Delighting in his new body, he spent the next few minutes bounding around the stage - waltzing around the room and up the stairs with his wife, sliding down the banisters, tossing his hair in all directions (just because he now had hair to toss), crouching down with gun in hand in imitation of Lucas North... and then discovering his pecs. Like all the plays, it was hugely enjoyable and very well-received.

The evening was introduced by Kevin Spacey, artistic director of the Old Vic, and compered by John Cleese. The casts of the plays included Tim Piggot-Smith, Lesley Manville and Rupert Evans (all of whom had worked with Richard in North and South), and also Richard Wilson, Dan Stevens, Ralf Little, Ronni Ancona, Paterson Joseph and Toby Jones. The writers included Richard Curtis, whose past work includes The Vicar of Dibley.

The participants had been asked to provide one-line biographies for the programme. Richard's read simply that he was dedicating the evening to the late Betty Pattison, the founder of Pattison College, who had died a few weeks previously.

According to Kevin Spacey, the gala raised £100,000, which will be used to support the work of the Old Vic, and in particular its Old Vic New Voices programme, which aims to encourage new talent in the theatre and to open it up to new audiences.

BBC's Two's The Culture Show (25th November 2010) included a report by Clemency Burton-Hill on the gala. She played the violin for the second play performed at the gala, so the focus of the report was on that play, but Richard Armitage was shown briefly. Watch an excerpt...

Both The Independent (22nd November) and the London Evening Standard (22nd November) carried reports about the gala. The What's On Stage website also had a report that included pictures from the after-show party, including one of Richard Armitage.


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