We were talking in the interval at Kes at the Oxford Playhouse on Monday about Mickey Rooney, who is soon to be playing Baron Hardup in Milton Keynes Theatre’s pantomime Cinderella. Giles Woodforde will be interviewing him for Weekend soon.

It is curious to consider (well, I think it so) that his co-star in the 1944 screen hit National Velvet might easily have been, not the young Elizabeth Taylor, but the just as young Shirley Williams, later to find fame of a different kind as an MP for parties of all sorts, at least one of them of her own devising. It is a little-known fact – rapidly becoming, thanks to the Internet, a better known one – that she auditioned for the part of Velvet Brown. It went instead to the fuller-figured (even at that age) Miss Taylor.

During her later career as an amateur thespian, here in Oxford, Shirley went on to land the role of Cordelia in a touring production of King Lear by the Oxford University Players. Other members of the cast included the former British Rail boss Peter Parker as Lear and Norman Painting as Albany.

Norman addressed the question we all pondered – were Williams and Parker any good? – in his autobiography, Reluctant Archer. His answer: not especially.

He wrote that Sir Peter’s performance was “very impressive” and Mrs Williams invested her Cordelia with the same “uncompromising firmness” she showed as a politician. However, “neither had the sort of natural, or acquired, stage technique which gave such finesse to other performances in the production”.

Was that of Albany, do you suppose, one such?