Everyone seemed to enjoy the Whatsonstage awards concert on Sunday night, not least the many redoubtable theatregoers who really make these awards so very special. The celebrity turn-out was phenomenal, too, and the concert top notch.
The two most heavily represented winning shows were Hairspray and All About My Mother. Dame Diana Rigg led the latter crowd, although Mark Gatiss was vying for attention with his sensational parti-coloured silk striped suit.
I discussed this garb with Dame Di in the VIP lounge during the interval: “Yes, I’ve issued a few notes,” she said. “I think dark trousers with the striped jacket would have been a wiser style choice and really quite enough in the circumstances.”
Dame Di herself was at the centre of our one major offstage panic: she lost her handbag. We all ran everywhere for a few minutes before Tom Cairns, All About’s director, found it backstage in the wings. Phew! Gathering herself magnificently, Dame Di then swept off to dinner at the Wolsey with her daughter, Rachael Stirling.
My area of responsibility on the night was the aforesaid VIP lounge, and I have to say that working with the Lyric Theatre bar staff was an unalloyed pleasure. We managed, I hope, to keep everyone suitably victualled in rather cramped surroundings, but actors are used to the rough and tumble of green room parties; even Kevin Spacey didn’t mind waiting a minute or two for his plastic tumbler of water.
It was great to see Peter Hall catching up with Andrew Lloyd Webber, or Tom Hollander explaining to colleagues that his date Kate Packenham wasn’t unusually tall and that, anyway, all the best women were. I’ll drink to that!
Drew, the barman, was surprised that we were left with much more red wine than white; he expected actors to drink loads of red. Jonathan Cecil of the award-winning comedy Elling helped out valiantly in that respect, but otherwise white wine and water were most in demand.
During the second act, the massed ranks of the Never Forget cast assembled in the main bar next door, a riot of cheesy white costumes, gold lurex and lycra. “Blimey,” said one of the Propellor award-winning ensemble, “they’d better be good, looking like that!” And blimey, they were, too.
The big talking point was the full-on snog delivered by the onstage host James Corden to promising newcomer Daniel Radcliffe. It was hilarious, and Radcliffe took it on the chin, as it were, like a true sport. The Propellor boys gave James a good riposte by rushing him ensemble-style as they collected their award. They just about stopped short of ripping his trousers off. If only they hadn’t.
Corden’s partner in the hosting department was Sheridan Smith and they did a brilliant job. They were relaxed and funny and set the tone perfectly between mock solemnity and high spirited irreverence.
Before she went onstage, I told Dame Di that Sheridan, like her, hails from Doncaster, and it was lovely to see her claiming that affiliation with the young comedy star. Winners and guests walked a few yards down Shaftesbury Avenue to a party in Teatro, and a good time was still being had by all when I slipped away to catch the night bus home.