Gossip & Giggles With Christopher Biggins Raises £4,000 for Kenton

Actor, Christopher Biggins gave the audience at The Kenton a fascinating insight into his showbiz life in a special 1 event for the theatre on Sunday evening.

Interviewed by BBC broadcast journalist, Sophie Van Brugen, Sophie started by asking Christopher about his time at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School where he met Jeremy Irons.  Christopher said, “Jeremy was no actor quite frankly, he was though nice to look at.  We were the best of friends. I was best man at his first wedding to Julie Hallam and I went on his honeymoon!  Sadly the marriage only lasted less than a year. I also introduced him to his current wife, Sinéad Cusack.”

Christopher has performed with an amazing line-up of award winning actors including Dame Judi Dench in one of his first plays; London Assurance for the Royal Shakespeare Company.  He told a story about being asked to do a collection for Dame Judi who had to leave the company before it was being transferred to the West End.  Actor, Donald Sinden said to Christopher that someone was coming to the last show and they would better than him to present the leaving present.  It turned out to be Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly and when Dame Judi came out of the toilet, she was so surprised to see the Princess she fell to the floor.

On TV, Christopher was probably best known for playing Lukewarm in Porridge with Sir Ronnie Barker and the department store owner, Adam Painting in the children’s TV show Rentaghost which he described as “bonkers”.  He said “It was my idea that my character Lukewarm was always knitting.  Ronnie was so generous; he would give lines to others if he thought they would be better for other people to say.  It’s very sad that there are only 3 of us left from Porridge.  Richard Beckinsale died so young.  I think he would have been an international star.”

He has also played TV parts in Upstairs, Downstairs, Minder, Some Mothers Do Have Them and Poldark as well as appearing on the big screen in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Tempest and Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.  Whilst playing a “sex craved vicar” in Poldark, he told a hilarious story about a scene which involved him putting his tongue between his wife’s sister toes who he was having an affair with which didn’t make the cut as the Head of Production said “they couldn’t show it on a Sunday after Dad’s Army!”

Christopher has an incredible circle of best friends which have included Cilla Black who he co-hosted Surprise Surprise with, Barbara Windsor and Joan Collins who he often stays with in the South of France and Los Angeles.  Through Joan, Christopher was invited to George Burns’ 97th birthday party in LA where he ended up sitting one away from Frank Sinatra.  He recalled, “If my mother could see me now.  She adored him.  I called him, Sir and Mr Sinatra; eventually he asked him to call him Frank. I told him I had played Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls and he replied do you know Christopher, so have I!”  He nearly lost his dear friendship with Joan Collins after a Daily Mail article he wrote on his five favourite women.  The headline led with “I’ve seen her with no make-up and no wig.”  Christopher said, “She didn’t speak to me for 3 months.”

I’m a Celebrity, “is one of the best things I’ve done” Christopher said.  He got on with everyone including Katie Hopkins apart from US model, Janice Dickinson who he was in the final with.  He added, “She was convinced she was going to win.  She was ghastly.  She was furious when I was crowned the winner.”  Ant and Dec have known Christopher for a long time and they wanted him to appear on the show for many years, however it always clashed with him appearing in panto until that year when Christopher signed up early.

Panto is one of Christopher’s dear loves and has played many Dame characters over the years.  He first appeared in Mother Goose in Darlington.  Unbelievably, a couple in The Kenton audience who now live in Henley told him that they went to see him that first panto. Christopher commented, “I was quite appalled when they first asked me as Dames are always old men.  They kept asking me and when they told me I would get a £1,000 week I then said yes for 3 years as it was good money.”

The audience got the opportunity to ask questions after the interval which included what would you like to be in, who has he most enjoyed working opposite, has he had any performance disasters or embarrassing moments and best moment?    Chris said, “I don’t want to act any more, as learning lines are more difficult as you get older.  It would be great if we could have autocue.  Marlow Brando never learnt any lines; he used to have all his lines on boards.  I would like to direct a film.”  His most embarrassing recollection was when Cannon and Ball arranged to have his rah-rah skirt lengthened in a panto.  He commented, “I was livid as they got such a big laugh.  I was so angry with them I ran after them.”

After the interview, Christopher hosted an auction of items which included dinner with Christopher and his husband Neil at the Hart Street Tavern, a Henley-on-Thames Painting, signed Wyfold sparkling wine and VIP panto experience.

Lottie Pheasant, The Kenton Manager said, “An Evening With Christopher Biggins was such a wonderful event – both in terms of entertainment and fundraising for The Kenton. I could have listened to his hilarious stories for hours! I’d like to say a huge thank you to Christopher for taking the time to come to Henley and entertain us all so thoroughly and to Sophie Van Brugen for hosting the evening. I’d also like to express my gratitude to all those who bid on our auction items, local businesses and individuals who supported us by donating auction items and everyone who bought tickets and helped us raise over £4,000 for The Kenton.”

 

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