A WEST End star made the Queen smile on her visit to the National Theatre.
Gareth Williams, 25, from Denbigh, is starring in the theatre hit War Horse as head actor puppeteer of Joey and Topthorn.
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited the National Theatre in London to mark its 50th anniversary.
The monarch was happy to see Joey once again after meeting the life-sized puppet several times before.
She told Joey: “It is lovely to see you again.”
Gareth, the operator, said: “She has met Joey before so she treated him like a real horse, which was amazing.
“She said it was lovely to see you again directly to him.
“She had been given flowers and I tried to eat them from her, but she said ‘no Joey, they’re not for eating’ and told me off.”
The Queen has seen the First World War story War Horse live on stage in 2009 and saw Joey at the Diamond Jubilee River Thames pageant in 2012.
The mechanical puppet also travelled to Windsor Castle to surprise the Queen in one of her horses’ stables.
Gareth said: “On her final walk to her car outside by the loading bay we surprised her with Joey. We crept round the corner to meet her.
“We followed her to the car and we did a salute when she left.
“She was so smiley and warm. She knows her horses so well and is fond of Joey.”
Gareth, a former student of Denbigh High School, acts as the head of the horse and stands alongside the puppet to hold the head with one hand and moves the ears with small bicycle brake leavers.
Three people including Gareth control the horse puppet head, heart and hind.
They must move and breath together to give the impression of one set of lungs.
Gareth said it was an honour to meet the Queen at the National Theatre’s anniversary.
“It was so surreal,” he said. “She knows horses probably better than we do.
“To meet someone who knows horses so well is a privilege.”
Gareth also plays Topthorn in War Horse by alternating between shows.
He graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff in 2010 and has been back to Denbigh High School to teach workshops and to Theatr Clwyd for the Theatre for Young People.