Glittering line-up attend birthday party of Finsbury Park theatre

Benedict Cumberbatch. Photo by Mark Douet

Sir Ian McKellen, Jez Bond and Sean Mathias. Photo by Mark Douet

Benedict Cumberbatch. Photo by Mark Douet

Harry Enfield, Paul Whitehouse and Maureen Lipman. Photo by Mark Douet

The star line-up on stage. Photo by Mark Douet

Sir Ian McKellen in rehearsals for the event

First published in Theatre
Last updated
by , Features Writer

Sir Ian McKellen, more famous for sporting Gandalf's wizards hat or Magneto's X-Men helmet, arrived on stage at Park Theatre last night clad top to toe in Arsenal kit.

His sartorial statement was not only a nod to the Gunner's win but also a ruse to raise funds at the venue's first birthday gala and he cheekily stripped off the kit (revealing more formal attire underneath) as it was auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Enfield Independent:

Sir Ian McKellen with Melli Bond (All photos by Mark Douet)

Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch had foregone the BAFTA's' to be there and showed his true colours by winning the red and white scarf, saying he would be wearing it at every game next season. He also agreed to join Sir Ian in sponsoring a seat at the theatre, on which both their names will appear, fitting as Sir Ian is to soon appear as Sherlock Holmes in a new film exploring his twilight years.

Cumberbatch is friends with the theatre's artistic director Jez Bond and said he has been a supporter from the start, coming to see the opening show and Adult Supervision, starring his ex-girlfriend Olivia Poulet and Stroke of Luck starring Tim Piggott-Smith.

"They have had some wonderful performers here already and the theatres only quite young so bring it on," he said.

"When Jez told me he was opening a theatre I said 'get out of here' but then he showed me the site and I thought 'that could work', there isn't an intimate space like this in the area."

He added: "This is as local as it gets for me as I'm just near the heath and I'm just thrilled for Jez and his success and that all his hard work has paid off and I hope the audience numbers continue to grow.

"I think to open a local theatre when you are still in the middle of a recession is a really involved thing to do and his tickets price policy, hats off to that, because there's proper access and people can come here and be inspired and moved and I think it's a great addition to the local community."

Enfield Independent:

Benedict Cumberbatch and Jez Bond

The Finsbury Park theatre opened its doors 12 months ago and Jez and creative director Melli Bond paid tribute to the hard work of the staff and the 57 volunteers who help run the theatre.

In that time it has shown 25 productions, the current shows being Desdemona and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and worked with 901 creatives and they announced on the night that Daytona, which starred Maureen Lipman, would be transferring to the West End.

Lipman was among the glittering line-up of stars who took to the stage for a special, one-off, old fashioned revue for the gala, which was also attended by celebrity supporters including Tamzin Outhwaite, Alan Rickman and Leslie Ash.

Lipman was hilarious, playing three very different actresses receiving very special 'awards', Clarke Peters charmed the audience with a silky smooth rendition of Nat King Cole's Nature Boy and Celia Imrie had perfect comic timing and facial expressions as she performed Alan Melville's skit extolling the horrors of catching frolicking couples on Wimbledon Common.

Will Young seemed to have taken inspiration from Beyonce's Met Gala outfit with his attire, donning a black face veil to sing an evocative version of Don't Smoke in Bed.

There were also turns from Lesley Manville, Michael Maloney and David Fynn before Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse reduced the audience to tears of laughter with their 40-45 sketch, performed on stage for the first time.

Enfield Independent:

Maureen Lipman, Lesley Granville and Celia Imrie

Sir Ian said: "I have a great enthusiasm for local theatre and here young people in the area can come and see a show for as cheaply as £12 or some Tuesdays can pay what they can.

"There is no money for subsidised theatre, eventually this may become so popular that the Arts Council may relent and say they will support it but until then it's up to the people to support it."

Enfield Independent:

Harry Enfield, Jez Bond and Alan Rickman

Enfield Independent:

Benedict Cumberbatch and Clarke Peters

Enfield Independent:

Charity Wakefield, Tamzin Outhwaite, and Honeysuckle Weeks

Enfield Independent:

Jez Bond tells Benedict Cumberbatch he's never watched Sherlock! (not true)

Enfield Independent:

David Fynn, Will Young and Michael Maloney

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