Curtains lifted on Hollywood actor’s theatre plans

YORKSHIRE-Born acting legend Judi Dench has urged residents to back an innovative new theatre project being launched in a former chapel in the East Riding.

The brainchild of Hollywood actor and Beverlonian Vincent Regan, East Riding Theatre will be a receiving house for touring companies but also put on its own productions several times a year as well as hosting live music and comedy.

The venue will be the Old Chapel on Lord Roberts Road recently vacated by East Riding Council - and Dame Judi has agreed to be its patron.

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Permission to give a non profit-making charitable trust a three-year lease was granted at a meeting of the council’s Cabinet yesterday.

The theatre hopes to raise the curtain on its first production in January, although it may be earlier, and has associate artists including Mark Addy, one of the founders of Hull Truck, Beverley-born Bafta winning actress Anna Maxwell Martin and Olivier-nominated actor David Bradley on board.

The writer Mike Poulton, Mr Regan said, is keen for one of his original pieces to be premiered at the theatre.

The actor, whose film credits include Troy and Clash of the Titans, praised the council’s “courageous” move in the depth of the recession.

He said he’d met council leader Steve Parnaby at a social function two and a half years ago.

Mr Regan told him: “Beverley is a very cultural centre with great festivals, but no professional theatre space. Stephen said: ‘Have a look at this space’.”

However, the actor said, they were going to have raise money both from the private and public sector and Dame Judi had noted: “it was a great idea but that it would go nowhere unless the people of East Yorkshire back it.”

The actor added: “We are going to be embark on a fundraising campaign. We will be doing that in conjunction with sorting out the place. It is a listed building, an old building, there’s a lot of work to do - there won’t be a show on next week.

“I’m very keen that it has a relationship with theatre in London.”

The seven-day a week operation will serve food and drink to help subsidise the theatre and will be a hub for established festivals.

Coun Parnaby said: “I think it is tremendously exciting.

“New professional theatres are almost extinct. We are fortunate to have someone like Vince Regan promoting this and to have someone like Judi Dench is absolutely fantastic.”