Simon Callow and Stephen Fry

JOHN LAWSON Norwich Theatre Royal.

JOHN LAWSON

Two of the “grandes dames” of British theatre locked horns last night in aid of Norwich Cathedral's £10m Inspiration for the Future appeal.

Simon Callow and Stephen Fry enthralled a sellout audience with more than two hours of conversation about the theatre, literature, poetry and the arts – subjects to which they have both contributed so much.

Both are considerable academics and naturally erudite speakers, with Fry's gently self-deprecating style the perfect foil for his long-time friend, dragging him back from moments of loveydom with a stylishly-placed bon mot.

In the first half of the show, being filmed by Anglia TV, the duo told of their love for Norwich and their artistic roots and inspirations.

Norfolk-raised Fry's first forays into his principal love of writing were fostered in an article he sent to “our local thunderous organ”, the Eastern Daily Press. History did not relate if it was accepted for publication.

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The second half was devoted to questions from the audience and covered such subjects as Harry Potter, with Fry poised to read the fifth instalment for audio books (“bloody woman: the thing almost cracked the tiles when it landed on my mat yesterday”).

And the openly-gay duo did not fight shy of a question about the appointment of the new Bishop of Reading. The raising of the gay issue in high-profile situations like this created a “terrible feeling of alienation” otherwise absent from modern society. Any organisation dedicated to the idea of nurturing the essence of human life should embrace all human beings, they agreed.

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