York & North Yorkshire

Dame Judi Dench's part in school play

The school's top pitch and chapel
Image caption Dame Judi is patron of the Richard Whiteley Theatre at the school

An Oscar-winning film star has thrilled pupils at a North Yorkshire boarding school by agreeing to take a part in their school play.

Dame Judi Dench is to be the voice of the giant in the Giggleswick school production of Into the Woods.

Pupils wrote asking her to take part with the cast of 90 schoolchildren.

She is patron of the Richard Whiteley Theatre that opened about 18 months ago, set up with money left by Mr Whiteley to the school in his will.

It is named after the late Countdown presenter who was a pupil at the school.

Mr Whiteley, who was the host of Channel 4's daytime game show for 23 years, died in 2005 aged 61.

'Really thrilled'

Dame Judi won her Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role as Elizabeth I in the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love.

Image caption Dame Judi won an Oscar for her portrayal of Elizabeth I

The pupils chose to ask York-born Dame Judi because she had already featured as the voice of the giant in the London Regent's Park open-air production of the Stephen Sondheim musical.

The giant is not seen onstage during the play.

The school said it was the first time Dame Judi had lent her recorded voice to a school play.

Andrew Beales, the school's foundation director, said the children were "really, really thrilled. They weren't really expecting to get her to agree to do it."

Giggleswick is an independent, co-educational, boarding and day school.

Into the Woods runs from 1-3 December.

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