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Actress Joanna Lumley opens new King's School theatre in Canterbury


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Actress and presenter Joanna Lumley has officially opened a new theatre in Canterbury and praised the facilities as "quite superb".

The Absolutely Fabulous star came to the city on Saturday for the official launch of the Kings' School redevelopment of the former Victorian Malthouse, later Barrett's Autoworks, site.

Joanna Lumley on stage in the new theatre during the opening ceremony of the King's School Malthouse Theatre. Picture: Alan Langley... (21787692)
Joanna Lumley on stage in the new theatre during the opening ceremony of the King's School Malthouse Theatre. Picture: Alan Langley... (21787692)

Still called the Malthouse, the building has been converted into a 334-seater theatre, complete with orchestra pit, retractable seating, dance and drama studios and technical backstage spaces.

The site was bought by the school in 2012 and now includes a new international college adjacent to the refurbished Malthouse building as part of the £28 million redevelopment.

As well as accommodating the school's own high quality productions, the theatre has already been hosting professional performances throughout the summer and is available for community use.

Its 334-seat capacity is said to be ideal for smaller productions where it can provide an intimate atmosphere.

Official opening of new King's School Malthouse Theatre and international college in Canterbury. Picture: Alan Langley... (21787687)
Official opening of new King's School Malthouse Theatre and international college in Canterbury. Picture: Alan Langley... (21787687)

Lumley has a connection with the school as her conductor husband Stephen Barlow is a former pupil.

Quoting words written by the King’s-educated 16th century author Christopher Marlowe, she said: "Now is the time for me to play my part”.

Praising the “quite superb” facilities, Joanna urged pupils and visitors alike to “haunt the Malthouse and other theatres across the land” to support the arts.

The theatre opening formed part of a wider celebration to mark the formal opening of the Malthouse site, which includes a new residential International College for King’s, and a new sports hall which is home to the UK’s largest school fencing salle.

High Sheriff of Kent, Paul Barrett, marked the occasion by unveiling a plaque on the site, which was formerly owned by his family’s car workshops business.

The Malthouse auditorium (21907583)
The Malthouse auditorium (21907583)

He spoke about his memories of the site as a child, adding: ”When I saw how the building has been transformed, I admit there was a tear in my eye..

"The Malthouse Theatre is a wonderful addition to local arts provision in Canterbury.”

Headmaster Peter Roberts thanked supporters, including philanthropist and publisher Sigrid Rausing, for enabling the school to complete the development.

“The Malthouse Theatre, the King’s School International College and the Malthouse Sports Hall will transform teaching and skills for our staff and pupils as well as the wider community, " he said.

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