Nicole Kidman among stars for African children's charity show
An all-star cast, including Nicole Kidman and Josh Hartnett, have been brought together by director Danny Boyle to give a unique charity performance.
James McAvoy, Cressida Bonas and Benedict Cumberbatch are among the A-list names who will be starring in the Children's Monologues at London's Royal Court Theatre this evening.
Each actor will perform first-hand accounts from children growing up in the remote South African town of Rammulotsi to raise money for Dramatic Need, an arts charity helping vulnerable children in Africa.
They often focus on horrific events including murder and gang rape.
X-Men and Trainspotting star McAvoy described the production as "dark and sad" and added: "All the pieces are about bad things happening….it's Dramatic Need, not Dramatic Sunday Club. There is a need for it."
"It's all sad stuff but there are some funny bits along the way. It's problems such as misogny - bad treatment of women by men, girls by boys," he said.
"I've always believed that acting has a very therapeutic effect, it's nice to see that people outside of us actually find it helpful too.
"It can also really mess you up by the way, we've seen lots of actors really messed up out there, but I think at this kind of level it's a really helpful tool.
"It's a bunch of actors helping people act in order to feel better about the bad sh*t that's going down with their lives."
He added: "I'm playing a wee girl who's telling the story of her brother who saved up for months and months to buy a pair of trainers that were the jiviest, coolest trainers you've ever seen in your life.
"It gave the whole family a lift when he actually managed to buy them - and he got mugged and killed for them."
McAvoy said: "Getting the chance to work with Danny, who I've worked with before, he's fully in control and in charge even though it's going to be a whirlwind and all over the place, he's the guy you want in charge of something like that."
He added: "There's a little bit of 'oh look there's so and so from such and such' and 'oh yeah, she's brilliant and he's cool' but at the same time I've got my head in the script just trying to get it learned before 6.45pm."
Alfie Allen, who stars in Game Of Thrones as Theon Greyjoy, described it as "an incredible opportunity".
"I've never been on stage at the Royal Court before," he said. "Just to be on the stage here, it's such an amazing theatre and around a fantastic cause.
"David Thewlis is someone I've always looked up to as an actor for a long, long time. He's just great.
"I'm just really glad that I get to be on the same stage as he is on the same night."
Allen said he was so excited about his performance tonight that he left his keys in his flat.
"I got on the Tube this morning because I didn't realise I was getting picked up," he continued.
"As soon as I got the call I was so excited for it.
"The things which happen in South Africa are awful.
"My piece was adapted from the original testimony by Neil LaBute.
"It's a dark piece about initiation into a gang and it's a gang-rape scene.
"There are things that happen like that on these shores, ritualistic beatings of women to get initiated into gangs, so it's not as far from home as you think it is."
Allen said he has spent two-and-a-half weeks learning the script "like a maniac" and added: "It's that classic thing of being so, so excited and then getting here and being terrified."
Thewlis, best known for his role as Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter films, said he is always happy to "give a bit back".
"There's also the enticement of working with some of the best actors in the world and Danny Boyle is one of the great directors of our time, he's made some of the best films of the past 30 years, so it was an easy decision really," he added.
"It's always great to work with great people because it makes you better, I think."
He added that his piece is "one of the more light-hearted" ones.
"I'm a boy who's speaking about his love for his father and how impressed he is by the strength and size of his father. He compares him to a tree," Thewlis said.
"I'm waiting for my performance, I'm excited to do it.
"I don't know what the rest of the show is like at all, we've never all met before.
"I don't know what order we'll be going in, I don't know what I'll be doing exactly.
"That's always a little bit trepidatious just because it's the unknown but I'm not really too worried about the thing itself because it's what I do in fact, it's one of the only things I can do."
Josh Hartnett, who plays Ethan Chandler in the TV series Penny Dreadful, has a long-standing involvement with the charity.
"I'm working nearby in Dublin and was able to come by and be part of it and so I'm happy to help out in any way," he said.
"My story is about a 13-year-old girl who lost her mother who died of Aids."
He described rehearsing and performing on stage on the same day as "a terrifying scenario to be in".
"I've barely met anybody, I've just been learning my lines," he added.
"Everyone's in their own head trying to learn their own piece.
"It should be fun and hopefully educate and get people involved.
"Hopefully people's celebrity here makes it easier for people to listen to what's being said.
"I don't think it would be as successful a fundraiser if there wasn't so many high-profile names in the cast."
Hartnett, who has also starred in Black Hawk Down, Sin City and Pearl Harbour, added: "It's an effective way of getting the word out.
"These kids don't really have much of a voice to reach an audience like this if it wasn't for these actors."