Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Duchess takes aim with pub darts

The Duchess of Cornwall takes part in a darts game during her visit to The Bell pub in Purleigh, Essex

The Duchess of Cornwall has tried her hand at darts during a visit to a pub in Essex.

Camilla joined the Prince of Wales at The Bell pub in Purleigh to promote his not-for-profit organisation The Pub Is The Hub, which supports licensees, rural pubs and community services.

They could not resist getting behind the bar and the Prince pulled pints of Oscar Wilde mild and Citra lager while the Duchess pulled Southwold Bitter and Woodforde's Wherry.

Camilla also tried her hand at darts and despite not getting a very high score, every one of her darts hit the board.

"I'm not very good", she said with a laugh.

Earlier, the Prince suggested that his services as a singer were available to a community choir - but doubted his voice would be up to much.

Charles met the chorus as he toured the Royal Opera House's state-of-the-art theatrical workshop in Essex with the Duchess.

The Prince is known to be passionate about opera but he played down his musical abilities, saying he had a "gravelly bass" singing voice.

The Royal Opera House's workshop is part of the High House Production Park in Purfleet, a £60 million centre of excellence for production, technical skills and crafts used in the performing arts and live music industries.

To mark its opening in December 2010, a community opera was staged featuring residents, and its legacy is the Royal Opera Thurrock Community Chorus, which is still going strong and working on staging Verdi's Requiem Mass.

Gabrielle Foster-Still, who manages the group, said after speaking to Charles: "He was saying he has a gravelly bass and was not sure if we would want him - but we could use him.

"And he did say he would like to hear us sing."

June Bull, 71, a stalwart of the choir, joked that she was a "lady tenor" who had to sing with the men because they were down on numbers.

She added: "I told him we have sung in German, Italian and French - that's quite hard for an old Essex girl that only speaks estuary English."

Asked if she would have liked to have performed for Charles, she joked: "We could have kept him amused for hours."

Charles and Camilla toured High House Production Park where students from South Essex College are taught a range of subjects.

They watched teenagers learning how to light a music performance - featuring a drummer, keyboard player and violinist - and make sure the sound levels were right.

Later they joined a Technical Theatre class where students were researching films and looking at the film career of Peter Sellers.

Megan Carey, 16, chatted to the Prince - a life-long fan of radio comedy show the Goons which featured Sellers - and said afterwards: "He seemed quite interested in what we were doing. He said to me 'you need to watch all of his films'."

Charles is patron of the Royal Opera House and in its cavernous production workshop he saw huge backdrops for productions and painted panels that will create the effect of a wood panelled room for a performance of Falstaff being staged in Amsterdam later in the year.

Alex Beard, chief executive of the Royal Opera House, said: "The prince was hugely impressed, this is probably the best production facilities available to any opera house in the world - in terms of its scale, facilities and available natural light."

Later the royal couple travelled to the Palace Theatre in Westcliff-on-Sea to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth.

Charles and Camilla watched 40 school children perform extracts from the Bard's best known plays - part of the Shakespeare Schools Festival.

The festival is the largest youth drama event in Britain. Schools who participate perform half hour abridged versions of the Bard's plays in local and professional theatres all over the UK.

After the show, which featured scenes from Macbeth, Hamlet, Henry V, Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing, the couple walked on stage to meet the cast.

When Camilla asked Newar Mierkhael, 14, who had appeared in the Much Ado About Nothing extract, why he liked Shakespeare, he replied: " I learned that there are so many twists to Shakespeare that you can interpret it in your own way."

The Prince told supporters of the Shakespeare Schools Festival, the charity which organised their visit, that he was very impressed: "I particularly enjoyed the last one from Much Ado About Nothing when they all danced. I think it is empowering and it builds confidence in children."

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