Page last updated at 08:31 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Gala performance closes theatre

Image showing the planned front approach to the theatre
The refurbished theatre will have a 1,200-seat auditorium

A gala performance by stars of stage and screen has brought down the final curtain on a Kent theatre ahead of a major £25.6m redevelopment.

It was the first step in a fund-raising campaign to ensure the future of the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury.

Former EastEnders stars John Altman and Sean Williamson, along with actor Ron Moody, were among those at the event.

Councillors voted for the move last week instead of agreeing to a revamp or closing the facility altogether.

Only £20m for the scheme has so far been guaranteed, but Peter Williams, chairman of the fund-raising campaign, said he was confident the remaining amount could be found.

'Caring friends'

"So far the money has come in from local authorities, from our supporters, the major trusts, and now we're going to say to the general public 'be a star', and by that we mean every single person in Kent can be a star by helping us with this production.

"They can organise coffee mornings, they can organise quizzes, they can organise almost anything."

He added that he was confident the remaining funds could be raised as the theatre had 10,000 "friends".

"That's the biggest group of friends of any theatre in the country, and everyone of those friends cares about this theatre."

A 1,200-seat auditorium and a second 150-seat performance space will be built on the current Marlowe site, with the majority of the funding coming from Canterbury City Council, Kent County Council and the South East England Development Agency.

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