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The Royal Variety Performance: what to expect

The Royal Variety Performance: what to expect

Everything you need to know ahead of the show, including the venue, the host and the line-up

By Ross Campbell, Writer

In what is largely agreed to be the longest-running entertainment show in British history, The Royal Variety Performance is back for its 109th year to wow celebs and literal royalty alike. This year, you can expect to enjoy the talents of global sensation Ed Sheeran, musical legend Sir Rod Stewart, the entire cast of Matilda The Musical, chart mainstay Anne-Marie, and Olly Alexander’s Years & Years. 


If that’s not enough, you can count on James Blunt, Elvis Costello and Gregory Porter to join the musical line-up, as well as some laughs from Judi Love, Bill Bailey, Chris McCausland and Josh Widdicombe. 


It is going to be a massive night of entertainment, and we can’t think of a better way to pep up our Sunday evening! Here’s what you can expect…

What is The Royal Variety Performance?

The Royal Variety Performance
, which dates back to 1912, is the world’s longest-running entertainment show. It’s attended by members of the British Royal Family to raise funds for the Royal Variety Charity, which provides support for entertainers and theatre workers during challenging times.

Where is The Royal Variety Performance held?

The Royal Variety Performance takes place at the Royal Albert Hall this year, but it hasn’t always been hosted in the iconic London concert venue. 43 performances have taken place at the London Palladium, ten at the London Coliseum, and seven at Drury Lane’s Theatre Royal (this is not an exhaustive venue list). It’s only been held at the Royal Albert Hall three times, including this year. 2021 is also the 150th anniversary of the great venue, so it is extra special this year.


Is there an audience at The Royal Variety Performance?

This year will see an audience for the first time in two years following the virtual Royal Variety Performance in 2020. As with all shows and experiences in the current landscape, it was filmed under strictly Covid-19 restrictions and protocols.

Who hosts The Royal Variety Performance?

This year’s show will be hosted by the Chatty Man himself, Alan Carr. “It really is a dream come true” says the comic. “If I remember correctly, the last time I appeared I was wearing a skimpy leopard-print mini dress, so I’m hoping as host this time I’ll be wearing something a bit more classy!”


In 2020, it was hosted by comedian, actor and singer Jason Manford, who has appeared on The Royal Variety Performance three times since 2009.

Who’s on The Royal Variety Performance?

The 2021 line-up includes the casts of Moulin Rouge and Matilda The Musical – who are celebrating ten years in the West End. Plus, there are musical performances from James Blunt, Anne-Marie, Bill Bailey, Years and Years, Elvis Costello, Gregory Porter, Ed Sheeran and Sir Rod Stewart.


Meanwhile Chris McCausland, Judi Love, Josh Widdicombe and Bill Bailey make up some of the comedy acts during the show this year.


Who has previously performed at The Royal Variety Performance?

Since 2007, the winners of Britain’s Got Talent have bagged themselves a slot at The Royal Variety Performance. Winners have included: opera tenor Paul Potts (2007); dancer George Sampson (2008); street dance group Diversity (2009); canine performance team, Ashleigh and Pudsey (2012); magician Richard Jones (2016); pianist Tokio Myers (2017); and comic singer Jon Courtenay (2020). 


Other famous names have included Laurel and Hardy in 1947, The Supremes in 1968, and the Blue Man Group in 2005. Sir Cliff Richard is the second most frequent performer with 13 appearances, only bested by comedian, singer and actor Max Bygraves, who has performed 14 times. 


In 1963 The Beatles performed at The Prince of Wales Theatre, and John Lennon is said to have requested audience participation (and that of the Royals), with a dash of his famous wit: “For our last number I’d like to ask your help… will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewellery.”


Where did the Royal Variety Performance begin?

It all started in 1912, with King George V and Queen Mary (our current Queen’s grandparents), attending a Royal Command Performance in aid of Variety Artistes’ Benevolent Fund (the original name of the Royal Variety Charity). 


A famous tale tells of a performer called Vesta Tilley, renowned for her humorous male impersonations. However, the sight of a woman in trousers and a top hat wasn’t to the taste of Queen Mary, who covered her eyes with her programme. Fortunately, a comic called Harry Tate followed, which lifted the spirits of the Queen. 


Later that night, Tate sent his son up to the royal box to see if there was anything left over, and as luck would have it, he found the very programme Queen Mary used to shield her eyes earlier that night.


When will The Royal Variety Performance be on TV?

Not everybody knows this, but the show is recorded ahead of time. The glitz and glamour took place at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Thursday 18 November. However, it’ll air on ITV HD (CH 103) on Sunday 19 December at 7:20pm. It is also available in Apps & Games > ITV Hub.

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