A rain-swept night last week did not deter the thespians from turning up to show their support for Wilton's Music Hall, the world's oldest music hall, now gently crumbling away in London's East End. Nor, indeed, did the Victorian list of rules on the wall that insists "No women" are to be admitted. As if any usher would be brave enough to tell that to the majestic Helen Mirren as she swept in.
Mirren, along with fellow actors Zoë Wanamaker and Rachael Stirling, was there to raise funds for the theatre, which is in desperate need of repair: the cornicing might still be beautiful, but the walls are covered with rough plaster and the bare, uneven floorboards proved tricky to navigate for those in high heels.
Stirling, daughter of The Avengers star Dame Diana Rigg, roused the throng to dig deep into their coat pockets. It was a handy call, as most people were still in them; it was a rather chilly evening to be hanging around in an unheated music hall.
Hugh Grant, who had generously flown in especially from America to be at the benefit, kept his black velvet jacket on tight, while Mirren kept a fur stole draped around her shoulders. There were, at least, abundant cocktails of Valt vodka mixed with pomegranate and cranberry to steel against the shivers.
Jim Broadbent, somewhat overawed by the hall's stark beauty, was quick to declare that any actor would be happy to work in such a fine venue, which can be rented out for weddings, parties and theatrical events. The renovation appeal raised more than 10,000, with far more promised.
Wilton's will use the money to keep itself going. The organisers managed to get Grant out as far as the cultural desert of the East End's Shadwell should give it confidence that it still has pulling power.Reuse content