Comedy: The Hackney Empire 10th Birthday Party

The Hackney Empire 10th Birthday Party takes place on 9 Dec at 8pm (0181-985 2424)
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What do Nigel from EastEnders, Harvey Keitel, Christy Moore, Harry Enfield, Peter O'Toole and Ralph Fiennes have in common? They have all, at one time or another over the past 10 years, appeared at the Hackney Empire.

The last decade has seen a flowering of artistic talent at Frank Matcham's elegant Grade II-listed theatre. It was at the Hackney Empire that Enfield's "Loadsamoney" character was heckled by a punter claiming to have a bigger wad. Here also, teenage groupies and Hollywood stars jostled each other at the stage door for a glimpse of Fiennes arriving to play Hamlet. Moore enjoyed playing the venue so much he memorialised it in a song on his latest album: "The Night I Stormed the Hackney Empire". As Roland Muldoon, the director of the theatre, puts it: "The Hackney Empire survives by keeping alive the idea that Variety is the spice of life." In celebration of the 10th anniversary of its reopening, the Empire is announcing an architectural competition to expand the theatre, drawing on National Lottery funds.

Its birthday party promises "the best bill of the decade". It certainly reads like a who's who of the circuit: peerless cake-lover Jo Brand, lovable Irishman Ardal O'Hanlon, cheery observationist Alan Davies, clever poet John Hegley, zany guitarist Bill Bailey, witty compere Arthur Smith, and foul-mouthed Jenny Eclair, to name but a few. Strap yourselves in for a long and riotous night.