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Michael Palin and Robert Lindsay stage Zoom play despite rain and phone calls

Michael Palin (Ian West/PA)
Michael Palin (Ian West/PA)

Sir Michael Palin and Robert Lindsay raised £35,000 for charity with a live reading of Waiting For Godot, despite interruptions from a mobile phone and downpour of rain.

The pair were joined by Joanna Lumley, who served as narrator, to read sections of the Samuel Beckett play over Zoom to raise money for the Royal Theatrical Fund, which helps those in the performing arts who are struggling during the coronavirus crisis.

During the performance, with Lindsay as Estragon and Sir Michael as Vladimir, the pair embraced through their screens and passed a carrot to each other and pulled on the same length of rope.

Afterwards the cast took part in a Q&A and Lumley said: “Did you hear that sudden rainstorm that came down in the middle in my part?”

Sir Michael added: “Did you hear my phone go off?

“It was my agent, saying you’ll never work again.”

Asked if performing remotely added a new facet to the medium of theatre, Sir Michael said: “I think it’s a bit of a stop gap at the moment, it’s a substitute.

“The whole body is best to be seen if you’re acting and also it should be enjoyed together, you want people to all be together in a very packed house in a packed theatre, that is the enjoyment of good acting.

“This is good, it’s an interesting way of introducing people to theatre and the text if you can’t get together in theatres.”

He continued: “It’s very quick to get to the theatre and get home, no jams, no-one at the stage door, just my wife saying ‘What have you been doing up there?’”

Lindsay added: “Actors rely on response, when you’re in a live performance you’re getting a reaction, you’re not looking at a chat line.

Sulphur and White World Premiere – London
Robert Lindsay (Matt Crossick/PA)

“If you hear laughter, you respond to the laughter and it takes you a little further in your performance, and if you hear silence or if you hear a phone ring in the audience, you respond in very angry ways.

“It’s that sense of community, of being part of something which is exciting and we all miss.”

However Sir Michael said he had taken a number of positives out of the experience of lockdown, saying: “The positive for me have been the sudden silence, for while everything seemed to stop, all the intrusions, all the noise, all the bustle, all the hustle, all the rushing about suddenly stopped for a while.

“It was just amazingly good to know that there is an alternative way of existence and actually hearing birds singing and seeing no aircraft in the air and the skies clear, just looking out over London, it’s been amazingly clear for the last two months.”

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