DAME Judi Dench was a top attraction at the Boswell Book Festival, this weekend.

On Friday, May 4 and Saturday, May 5 the VIP visitor was accompanied to Dumfries House by HRH Prince of Wales.

Dame Judi was then interviewed by Dominic Hill in front of a live audience.

Dominic Hill asked: “You are in a documentary this year called ‘Nothing like a Dame’. How did that come about?”

Dame Judi replied: “That is a terribly good question. It was the idea of Roger Michelldir and was originally going to be called ‘Tea with the Dames’.

“The programme was going to be on TV but ended up going into the cinema.”

Dominic continued: “There is a fantastic moment when you are shown pictures of you at 17-years-old in a musical play. It was great because it looks like you have not seen these pictures in a long time or ever.

“Let’s go back to your childhood in York. Your father was a doctor. Why did you not follow in his footsteps?

“Dame Judi said: “My brothers and I were taken to the theatre to see Cuckoo in the Nest. But laughed so much, I made myself ill.

“My mother had to take me back the next day to watch the second half. My brother Jeffery always wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be a designer.

“But it was through watching King Lear at Stratford, I thought I couldn’t be that good a designer, I was not talented enough.

“I caught the acting gene like a rash. By the time I went to Central I was so sure I wanted to be an actress.”

Dominic said: “You have lived up and down the M40.”

Dame Judi joked: “There was no M40 in those days. I was almost on horseback. I was asked to play Cleopatra by Peter Hall and Terry Hands at the same time.

“I was so flattered that I said yes to both. I eventually had to own up to what I had done and went to the National with Peter Hall.

“I was asked to play Sally Bowles in London. This was my first musical and was the first time Sally Bowles appeared in London.

“My dressing room was below ground level. One day I heard a woman say ‘Arthur, you told me it was all about nuns and children’ because the Sound of Music had been there before.”

Dame Judi appeared briefly in Les Miserables ‘illegally’. While performing in one play in London’s West End she arranged to sneak on stage during Les Mis, during a break.

She said: “I was one of the barricades. One man said to me you will hear a shot but don’t worry we will help you off.

“After falling to the ground in pain I was told, ‘you were only shot in the arm’.”

Dame Judi never did appear in Cats as she snapped her Achilles tendon and could not play but played Lady Macbeth with Ian Mckellen.

From November 1981 until February 1984 Dame Judi played Laura Dalton in sitcom A Fine Romance.

She played Queen Victory in the film Mrs Brown in 1997 with just 30 days to film.

In 2017 Osborne House welcomed the cast and crew of feature film ‘Victoria & Abdul’ with Dame Judi playing Queen Victoria once again.

Dame Judi played M in the Bond films for some 18 years.

Dominic Hill asked: “Was that out of the blue?”

She replied: “It came completely out of the blue. This was a huge film in my view.

Pierce was very frightening. I did eight films and played M for 18 years.”

At the conclusion of the interview there were some questions from the audience, including one member of the audience who asked about her passion for trees - which led to her taking part in a documentary on the subject.

Another asked about a favourite sonnet, following which she performed it for the audience, giving those gathered a brief insight into the stunning power of her voice and her presence on the stage, even if it was a makeshift one in an area of Dumfries House.

The performance on Friday night, which also included a musical interlude and an appearance from ‘Boswell’ himself, was made possible after HRH the Duke of Rothesay intervened to bring Dame Judi along to the event.

A representative from the Prince’s Trust explained to the audience: “His Royal Highness always takes an interest in things happening in and around the estate and asked if there was anything he could do to help the Boswell Festival.

“The answer came, yes...open your little black book.”