STAR of the stage and screen, Sir Derek Jacobi, cut the ribbon of the revamped Hall Green Little Theatre last week.
It was the I Claudius actor’s third visit to the venue since he became its president over 20 years ago - replacing Sir Laurence Olivier.
During his stay he gave some pointers to the actors rehearsing for Dick Whittington, which opens at the theatre tonight, before cutting the ribbon of the refurbished auditorium.
“I’m only sorry I haven’t visited here more often,” he said. “But at least that shows I’ve been gainfully employed all these years. The seats are very comfy, I love the colour and wish everyone who performs here the best of luck.”
Speaking to the Solihull News, the 74-year-old, who has appeared in Oscar-winning films Gladiator and The King’s Speech, explained how he became involved with the theatre in 1989.
“They asked me to do it while I was doing a show in Birmingham and of course I was delighted. Theatres like these are hugely important.”
The new-look auditorium is the latest change for the theatre – which has a history stretching back almost 70 years. A black and white film of the original building work was also shown on the evening.
Hazel Davis, who got involved in 1945 and appears in the footage, said: “The theatre was actually started off by members of the fire watch during the war, who would recite plays on duty.”
In the early 1950s, a group of volunteers set to work on the purpose-built premises in Pemberley Road, Acocks Green.
“We were the first theatre in Europe to be built in a field,” said Hazel. “I remember an Irish labourer came over one day and asked what we were doing.
“We replied ‘oh, building a theatre’. He asked us if we could brick lay and we said we couldn’t so he offered to teach us in return for two pints every Saturday.
“So we all learned to do that, of course the women were much better at it than the men.”
Fellow member Evelyn Bartlett, from Shirley, said the structure was solid as a rock.
“We used to say that if you wanted to survive an atom bomb, you should get the shelter built by Hall Green Little Theatre.”
Read our exclusive interview with Sir Derek in next week’s Entertainment pages.