Distinguished guests, staff, students and alumni flocked to Kingston Universityâ€™s gala night marking the launch of the Rose Theatre on Friday 18 January.
Theatre-goers turned out in force to watch a performance of Anton Chekhovâ€™s Uncle Vanya, directed by University Chancellor and internationally-acclaimed theatre director Sir Peter Hall, which followed the venueâ€™s official unveiling on Wednesday 16 January.
Inspired by the former 16th century Rose Theatre on Londonâ€™s Bankside, Kingstonâ€™s Rose Theatre boasts a 900-person capacity auditorium.
The complex cost Â£11 million to complete with the University contributing Â£500,000. Students and staff will use performance and exhibition space in the theatre to showcase their stage and production talents and display project work.
Sir Peter Hall told guests at a reception held following the performance that the opening of the venue was a huge achievement.
â€œIt is wonderful to be here at this brand new theatre,â€ he told the audience.
â€œI know and you know if it was not for the backing of the University we wouldnâ€™t be here now.
If it wasnâ€™t for the extraordinary strength and belief of the borough council we wouldnâ€™t be here now.
If anyone wrote down the history of the building in the last five years that I have been involved in it, it wouldnâ€™t seem probable.
Itâ€™s been absolutely mad.â€
The Universityâ€™s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Mary Stuart said the University and the theatre would have strong links in the future.
â€œThe University is very proud of its partnership with Kingston Council and the Theatre Trust,â€ she said.
â€œWe are thrilled that our students will be rehearsing at this fabulous venue very soon and exhibiting their work there.
It gives us the chance to have a strong presence in a landmark town centre venue.â€
Cast members including Michelle Dockery, Nicholas le Prevost and Ronald Pickup also attended the reception.
Neil Pearson, who played the doctor in Uncle Vanya and who featured in 2001 blockbuster Bridget Jonesâ€™s Diary, praised the new theatre.
â€œIt provides a great space,â€ he said.
â€œIt is fabulous to play here.
It has what all the best theatres have got – space for both the actors and the audience without losing that sense of intimacy.
It was definitely worth the wait.â€
Actor Kevin Whately, who played Lewis in television drama Inspector Morse and is the brother of the Universityâ€™s Head of the School of Performance and Screen Studies, Frank Whately, described the theatre as a stunning venue.
â€œIt works a treat for audiences and actors,â€ he said.
â€œI believe that both the town and the University will gain a great deal from their new theatre.â€