Actor lends a hand for tribute

CBBC Presenter Michael Absalom  visits You're a Star Theatre School

Theatre school visited by CBBC presenter

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A Hollywood actor is coming to Portsmouth next Saturday to pay tribute to his close friend, Simon Gray.

Son of Dame Maggie Smith and Sir Robert Stephens, Toby Stephens is acclaimed for his stage acting, as well as numerous television appearances and playing the villian, Gustav Graves, in James Bond’s Die Another Day in 2002.

He is coming to the city to take part in A Life In Film with Margy Kinmonth. The evening will be a tribute to Simon Gray, the Portsmouth educated playwright, producer and director to celebrate his 75th birthday.

Stephens said: ‘Simon was a very close friend of mine and I did a play of his in 2000. Just through theatre experience we became friends and he was very dear to me.

‘When his wife Victoria asked whether I would come and speak I very much wanted to say how wonderful a person and writer he was,’

Stephens worked with Simon Gray on Japes, a stage play in 2000, and Missing Dates, a radio drama but Gray produced over 40 plays and 5 published novels in his lifetime.

In 2004 he was awarded a CBE for his services to Drama and Literature, but sadly died from cancer in 2008.

Stephens added: ‘As a director and a writer and he was inspriational. He was brilliant writer and Japes was a very personal play about alocholism as Simon battled with it in his life and gave up in the late Nineties.

‘It was very much about him and his brothers relationship and so it was a great play and I loved working with him as a director. I found him just very very detailed and he was very good at it.’

The evening will be a question and answer session to the guest speakers, with BAFTA Award winning producer and director Margy Kinmonth also present. Although Stephens connections to the area go deeper than his friendship with Gray.

He concludes: ‘I grew up not a million miles from there. I grew up in west Sussex and I spent a lot of time around Chichester and Portsmouth. It will be a nice day out.

‘Margy Kinmonth is talking about him and I’m just speaking as someone from the acting side of the world. He was a close firend of mine and its basically just a big tribute to his career and his life.’

The evening starts at 6pm and tickets are £8.

Tickets: Portsmouth festivities (023) 9282 6722.

For the full programme of events go to portsmouthfestivities.co.uk.

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