Dame Judi Dench in Conversation with Gyles Brandreth
Gielgud Theatre, London (Livestreamed July 3, 2022)
You know what theatre people like? Theatre. You know what they like almost as much as they like theatre? Theatre stories. And when it’s Judi Dench, you’re going to get theatre, television, and film stories among other bits. And…that’s pretty much the entire premise of I Remember It Well, but it’s plenty.
I must here give a quick note about the host/prompter/interviewer/emcee of the evening, Gyles Brandreth. While basically everybody on the planet knows Dame Judi, Gyles is less well-known here across the pond, unless you watch as much British television as I do. Whenever Gyles is on a panel show, his stories about how he’s either related to or has met seemingly everyone in most of known history are guaranteed to send the show sideways at some point. He will rattle off one of these stories at the drop of a hat, and if no one else will drop a hat, he’s no doubt brought his own hat just in case. Having only seen Gyles in this context (and on Twitter modeling his frighteningly large collection of jumpers), I wondered how much he was going to inject himself into the proceedings, since it’s ostensibly Dame Judi’s show. Well, I needn’t have worried. He was there to prompt, try to needle things out of her (with varying degrees of success), and occasionally throw in a brief story when needed for the flow of the proceedings. He was, in essence, a marvelous host. And it was quite amusing to see them try to help each other remember specific events and dates. Between the two of them, they’ve no doubt forgotten more than most individuals will actually do in a lifetime.
If you’ve been following Dame Judi’s career and seen her on chat shows and read interviews and such, you will not doubt hear some stories you’ve heard before. How she’ll accept a project sight unseen if it means working with Kenneth Branagh. How her parents once added to a performance of Romeo and Juliet. But there was also: one of Cleopatra’s snakes taking a curtain call, the time she appeared in two West End shows at once…and both she and Gyles contributed Gielgud stories, which it’s impossible to have enough of. Her impressions of everyone from Gielgud to Billy Connolly were also incredibly amusing. Of course this was just one of the three shows, so if you managed to see this live then, well, I hate you, and if you saw it on a different occasion, the array of memories might have been different. I was a little surprised her embroidery work wasn’t mentioned.
The show closed with the two performing the song the title hails from, and it was delightful. The whole thing was, to be honest. The biggest downside is that it was only two hours. But considering the price tag was only $15 for the livestream, it was very much worth it. The recorded performance may be available on the Fane website, so keep an eye out for that. If you’re a fan of the Dame, you would do yourself a grave disservice by not checking this out.