YORK acting legend dame Judi Dench today made an emotional plea for the UK to 'keep the flame (of live theatre) going' during lockdown

Speaking on the Andrew Marr show, Dame Judi said that during lockdown more people than ever had been relying on TV and films.

But live theatre, which is the training ground for so much acting talent, is in a desperate situation, she pointed out.

"All those young people who are coming out of drama school, and wanting to start jobs, and being eager about it...they can't do anything," she said.

"And, you know, we need to help them, and we need to encourage them, and we need to keep the flame going."

Next Sunday, Dame Judi will be joining fellow members of the thespian royalty Sir Derek Jacobi, Sir Ian McKellen, and Dame Maggie Smith for One Knight Only, an online evening of conversations hosted by Kenneth Branagh.

All proceeds from the event will go to Acting for Others, a theatrical charity that provides emotional and financial assistance to theatre workers.

"It's for a very good cause. And it does go to the people who are all self employed and who, not necessarily act, but work in the theatre, and keep the theatres going," Dame Judi said.

Quizzed by Mr Marr about whether the £250 million already given by the government to support live theatre was enough, Dame Judi said: "I don't know. I don't know when we'll be back on the stage again. I can't imagine when it will be. We naturally want more, but then so does everybody. But it (theatre) does bring a huge revenue to this country."

Dame Judi admitted that even after a lifetime of live theatre, the prospect of doing an unscripted evening of conversation in front of an online audience was 'very frightening indeed'.

"It's an actor's nightmare, because it's like being in your dressing room and being got into a costume, and them saying 'hurry up, get on' and you say 'yes, but what's the play?' You see we don't know what the play is!"

For One Knight Only, produced by Lockdown Theatre in association with Acting For Others, will be broadcast live on Zoom next Sunday from 7-8.30pm.

Tickets, priced £45, are available from www.RtfLockdown.com