PLAYWRIGHT Ray Cooney swapped the stage for the waves as he and some showbusiness friends went for a cruise on the Thames.
Cooney and his seven guests made the most of the fleeting sun on Monday as they enjoyed a trip from Sonning to Henley and back on a 102-year-old river launch named Christobel.
The 81-year-old writer, best known for his long- running West End hit Run For Your Wife, won the cruise in an auction at actor Sir Donald Sinden’s 91st birthday party in London with proceeds going to the Royal Theatrical Fund.
He was joined on the water by wife Linda and friends Nick Wilton, Lynette McMorrough, Jen and Keith Strachan, Alan Osman and Roger Bruce.
The group met at the Mill Theatre and were treated to champagne on board the boat, which took part in last year’s diamond jubilee pageant on the Thames.
Cooney said: “I don’t often get to go on the river. I’ve had a few small trips but never on Christobel.
“It’s even better that I’m here with close friends whom we’ve known for 30 or 40 years. We come to Sonning quite often. The Mill does two of my plays each year and we will definitely be here for Not Now, Darling at Christmas.”
Cooney was also celebrating the DVD release of the film version of Run For Your Wife. The film stars Danny Dyer and Denise van Outen and features cameo roles for some of Cooney’s celebrity friends, including Dame Judi Dench and Sir Cliff Richard.
Cooney said: “Nick stars as a taxi driver in the film. He has also appeared in most of my plays — I’ve written 28 and he has done around 15 of them.”
Jen Strachan said: “We have a boat ourselves and love to get out on the river. We live in Hampton Court and go out on the Thames quite often in the summer and always stop off in Sonning.”
Christobel was provided by Sonning Boat Charter and skippered by John Grove with help from Jeremy Gilmore.
Company director Clare Grove said: “This is our last cruise of the season, so it’s a lovely way to round it off.
“We bought Christobel five years ago. She was built in Norfolk but fell into disrepair and was restored in the Seventies. Her hull is 102 years old but her coachwork is all wood from Henley trees.
“We started Sonning Boat Charter three years ago. I was trained as an actress and appeared in several of Ray’s plays, some here in Sonning.”