Published On: Thu, Nov 30th, 2017

Queen is all smiles as she braves the cold for Chichester Theatre performance

As royal fans obsessed over whether it was Ralph Lauren public relations director Violet von Westenholz or fashion designer Misha Nonoo who introduced the couple, Harry’s grandmother watched young actors from Chichester Festival Youth Theatre perform the song Matchmaker from Fiddler on the Roof.

In a pastel pink Stewart Parvin tweed coat and dress and Angela Kelly hat, the 91-year-old monarch listened as actors Simbi Akande, Lucinda Lawrence, and Rose Shalloo sang about a matchmaker finding a husband as rich as a King and slender and pale. 

“Did you think you’d get a Prince?” the song asks.

Daniel Evans, the artistic director, and Rachel Tackley, executive director, said the cast had begun rehearsing for the visit months ago. “How could we have known?” Ms Tackley asked.

The Queen, who did not discuss her grandson’s engagement to American actress Meghan with her hosts, watched 70 actors put on a selection of performances from past and upcoming shows at the theatre.

They included another song from Fiddler – If I Were A Rich Man, sung by comedian and actor Omid Djalili reprising his role from the summer – a Changing of the Guard March and dance routine, a scene from Beauty and the Beast, an appearance by Oona, a life-size elephant puppet from a previous production of Running Wild, and the song One Brick At A Time from Barnum.

In the neighbouring Minerva Theatre, Dame Patricia Routledge, who first appeared at Chichester in 1969, performed a speech from Noel Coward’s Cowardly Custard.

Over lunch with actors and theatre staff, the Queen reminisced about her first visit to the Festival Theatre in 1962, for a charity performance of Anton Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanya in the year it opened to the public under its inaugural artistic director, Sir Laurence Olivier. “She still remembered where we she sat and the shape of the auditorium,” Ms Tackley said.

With the temperature barely above freezing when she arrived, aides said it was too cold for the elderly monarch to go on a walkabout to meet hundreds of well-wishers who had waited for as much as five hours to see her.

But strolling between the Festival Theatre, Britain’s first modern thrust stage theatre, and its smaller sister venue, The Minerva, which opened in 1989, the Queen did stop to chat to half a dozen fans.

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