The Duchess of Cornwall appearing in The Archers reminded me of various brushes with the high and mighty experienced by Natural Theatre Company. No scripts or studio sessions are necessary with us. Just standing next to one of our characters makes you part of the performance and famous people have reacted in differing ways over the years.
For example, John Prescott couldn’t get away fast enough when confronted with our pretend naked people. But of course, an image of him actually running was like gold dust to the paparazzi and the cameras flashed.
Michael Heseltine on the other hand remained implacable as one of our aged retainers scrabbled around under his table at a formal dinner and Prince Charles was happy to chat to our flowerpot people, probably knowing full well that the talking to plants angle would send the photo global.
InVienna, none other than the soon to be disgraced president, Kurt Waldheim, attended one of our shows. Obviously unprimed about the audience participation involved, he foolishly sat in the front row. However, he gamely donned a party hat and joined in the fun. Two bulky body guards placed themselves behind him. The president was a very tall man so during an improvised speech I asked them if they would like to move to a better seat. Hilariously, the answer came in unison: no we have to sit here. They were there to watch his back, and that’s exactly what they got to do!
Princess Diana had no qualms about playing along with our famous Coneheads, even though in the background we could hear the organiser of the reception in paroxysms of anger barking ‘Get them out of here now!’ into a walkie-talkie. Margaret Thatcher’s zealous minders had the same attitude but there have been several occasions around the world when, spotting us, she has marched purposefully towards us, grinning madly and determined to take full advantage of the situation.
My own brush with royalty was a bit of a disaster. You may recall I was invited to lead the Queen’s jubilee parade down the Mall in the guise of a royal nanny. Since I was wearing my comedy glasses at the time, I waived to completely the wrong woman, leaving her majesty staring nonplussed at my back.