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Ian McKellen
Photograph: Andy Parsons

Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren and Lenny Henry are hosting a ‘pub quiz’ for the National Theatre tonight

Chris Waywell
Written by
Chris Waywell

The idea of unemployed actors running a pub quiz is scarcely a new one. Resting thesps are the very lifeblood of London’s hospitality industry – working in bars and pubs, waiting tables and being quizmasters (good projection!). Now the National Theatre has enlisted four pretty starry ones in the form of Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Lenny Henry and Lesley Manville. These total ledges – and Lenny Henry – will be hosting an online ‘pub quiz’ tonight to help raise funds for the institution. 

We’re hearing a lot of stories at the moment about how the future of small venues and businesses is massively under threat as result of the lockdown. So it’s kind of surprising that a huge, state-funded cultural landmark like the National Theatre is also in peril. But it is. Director Rufus Norris said: ‘The term “devastation” is a big term but, if we’re not careful and we don’t get supported through it (by the Government), it’s likely to be devastating for this industry and consequently for the arts in the UK.’

Grim times. Anyway, what exactly does tonight’s quiz consist of? Well, according to the NT’s site, the stars are going to ask questions about ‘history, sport, nature and the National Theatre itself’. So it looks like they’re taking a round apiece. We’re assuming that will play out as: Leslie Manville (history), Ian McKellen (sport), Helen Mirren (nature – she always used to be taking her clothes off in films), with Lenny Henry doing the NT round, but who knows? Maybe they’ll just take it in turns. Let’s not forget, too, that Sir Ian has proper form in that he part-owns an actual London pub (The Grapes in Limehouse) and has even been known to front its quiz from time to time.

The quiz is set to run on Facebook and YouTube on the last Monday of every month, so look out for more big-name question posers.

Personally, we can’t wait to hear Sir Ian’s sonorous tones declaiming: ‘I will only accept “Mary Celeste”. If you’ve put “Marie Celeste”, you get no points. And, no, I’m not discussing it.’

The National Theatre pub quiz is at 7pm BST on Mon Apr 27. Join in via the National Theatre at Home site.

Find the full schedule of National Theatre plays streaming for free.

And The Globe’s streaming a Shakespeare play for free every fortnight. 

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