Helen Mirren gets Royally Irked at London Street Drummers During Performance

Mark Deming
Movie Talk

It's not nice to interrupt the Queen. Especially when she's Helen Mirren.

Saturday night, a troupe of drummers who were performing on the streets of London got an earful from Dame Mirren when they happened to interrupt a performance of "The Audience," a new play in which she plays Queen Elizabeth II. Mirren, angry that the drumming was disrupting the show and throwing her and her fellow cast members off their game, stormed out of the Gielgud Theatre during intermission and reportedly turned the air blue as she ranted at the percussionists in full make-up and costume, including her royal tiara.

"I literally walked straight off stage, straight up the stairs and straight out the stage door and banged my way through the crowd who were watching and said 'Stop, you've got to stop right now,'" Mirren told the London Daily Telegraph. "Only I might have used stronger language than that."

The drummers, a troupe called Batala London, were parading through the neighborhood to publicize the At One in the Park Festival, a LGBT Pride event being held later this month. Liam Emerson, Batala's musical director, said they were unaware that they were causing a disturbance in the theater.

"Her language was very blue, which looking back on it is probably quite funny, really," Emerson said. "But once I realized it was Helen Mirren and we were right next to a theater, we kind of stopped and politely apologized."

Mirren concurred with Emerson's statement, telling the Telegraph, "I'm afraid there were a few 'thespian' words used. They got a very stern royal ticking off, but I have to say they were very sweet and they stopped immediately."

Mark McKenzie, one of the organizers of the Batala performance, said, "Not much shocks you on the gay scene. But seeing Helen Mirren dressed as the Queen cussing and swearing and making you stop your parade -- that's a new one."

Playing Queen Elizabeth II has become something of a specialty for Mirren. She won an Oscar playing Elizabeth in the 2006 film "The Queen," and recently received the Olivier (the British Tony) for her turn in "The Audience."

After the intermission, Mirren and the rest of the cast returned to the stage and finished their performance, through there was an interruption when a brief power failure turned the stage dark for a few moments.

Mirren told reporters there are no hard feelings against the drummers, and she hopes to invite the Batala percussionists to a future performance, calling them "fellow performers."