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Sir Ian McKellan, Benedict Cumberbatch and Will Young help Park Theatre celebrate 1st birthday

PUBLISHED: 15:45 20 May 2014 | UPDATED: 09:25 21 May 2014

Sir Ian Mckellan, Jez Bond and director Sean Mathias - photo by Mark Douet

Sir Ian Mckellan, Jez Bond and director Sean Mathias - photo by Mark Douet

Photo by Mark Douet

Stars of the stage and the silver screen were in Finsbury Park on Sunday to celebrate the Park Theatre’s first birthday.

Maureen Lipman, Lesley Manville and Celia Imrie - Mark DouetMaureen Lipman, Lesley Manville and Celia Imrie - Mark Douet

Sir Ian Mckellan, Will Young, Maureen Lipman and Celia Imrie were among those who graced the stage in an hour-long revue while Alan Rickman and Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch were also there to show their support and help raise funds, despite the bash clashing with the BAFTAs.

Also on the stage were Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse who performed their 40-45 sketch, Lesley Manville and star of The Wire Clarke Peters.

It was announced on the night that the £2.5million theatre, which has a 200-seater downstairs and a 90-seater upstairs auditorium, is set for its first West End transfer with the play Daytona, starring Maureen Lipman.

The theatre, which has put on 25 shows in its first year, is run with the help of 57 volunteers and has worked with 901 “creatives” in its first 12 months.

Jez Bond and Benedict Cumberbatch - Mark DouetJez Bond and Benedict Cumberbatch - Mark Douet

Stars commended the theatre and its education centre, used to teach local students about script writing and the stage, for the important role it was playing in the community.

Sir Ian Mckellan, who acted as compare on the night, said: “Here you have the most perfect acting space for any play you could possibly think of.

“Seeing what’s on offer to the people of Finsbury Park on a Tuesday night – if you’re a local you can see a show for £12 and you can pay what you like every second Tuesday.

“You can only get a couple of big macs for that.

Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield - Mark DouetPaul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield - Mark Douet

“You can just imagine a kid growing up in this area who likes theatre and grows up coming here again and again.”

Sir Ian appeared on stage fully clad in Arsenal memorabilia which he signed and distributed to bidders in the audience as part of an improvised auction – with Arsenal fan Benedict Cumberbatch landing a scarf for £50.

The Lord of the Rings actor was also among those who paid for the right to have his name “immortalised” on one of the theatre’s seats which he will share with Mr Cumberbatch.

Guests could also do their part by paying £20 to sign a section of the wall and have their name alongside A-listers.

While the night was a huge success, artistic director Jez Bond, said he was just getting started.

“We’ve had a really good year, but I wouldn’t say we’ve exceeded our expectations because I dream big,” he said.

“I want to push it further, we’re having our first West End transfer and we’ve got a lot of great patrons involved like Ian McKellan who’s been with us from the beginning.

“We’ve got great support but we need even more as we don’t get any funding.

“We’re right at the heart of the regeneration of Finsbury Park but the theatre wouldn’t be thriving without this great community.”


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