Alan Rickman last night headed a star-studded line-up of British acting talent at the Old Vic in Waterloo to raise money for RADA.
Richard Briers, Fiona Shaw, Annie Lennox, Des'ree and Janet McTeer are among those who volunteered to make a recording of verse by Shakespeare and appeared last night in the Love Speaks Live concert to launch it.
Rickman, a member of RADA's governing council, came up with the idea of a CD of readings of Shakespearean sonnets: "It occurred to me that we weren't making as much use as we could of past students," he said.
The result was When Love Speaks, featuring the biggest and most illustrious array of theatrical talent assembled for one recording. More than 40 stars, including Kenneth Branagh, Ralph Fiennes and Diana Rigg, took part.
The CD looks likely to become Shakespeare's first entry in the top 20. Proceeds from the concert and £1.20 from every CD sold will go to Rada, which has to find £300,000 a year to supplement its official grants to train young actors.
Lord Attenborough hopes the CD will also boost interest in the Bard. "I think this wonderful galaxy of stars will bring in a young generation who might otherwise be rather put off by the word Shakespeare."