Sir Ian McKellen was among guests and performers as The Space on the Isle Of Dogs celebrated its 20th anniversary.
The knight, principal patron of the Westferry Road theatre, was one of many attractions on a night that included scenes and music from past, present and future plays at the venue.
The cast comprised alumni from in-house company Space Productions while artistic director Adam Hemming and chair of trustees Pradeep Jey acted as hosts.
The pair opened with a touching tribute to the creator of the Space, Robert Richardson, who was project director of the St Paul’s Arts Trust, which took over responsibility for the former church before creating The Space in 1996.
Pradeep said: “It’s simply not possible to celebrate The Space without paying tribute to the person responsible for rescuing this beautiful old building and creating a home for the arts on the Isle Of Dogs.
Adam said: “I had the absolute privilege of knowing Robert Richardson. Robert was creative courageous, welcoming and inclusive – values inspired in The Space, which we continue today.”
Pradeep added: “I wish I had been around in those early days to see Robert tackle this huge challenge, maybe laying bricks with Steve Pilcher or knocking on the door of a local actor and asking him to be our patron.”
That was the cue for Sir Ian, who emerged to talk about the theatre’s early days before asking the audience to name every Shakespeare play and even reciting a passage, from memory, of a monologue from Richard II.
This was followed by scenes and songs from productions including The Graduate, The Lighthouse, Manifesto, Vernon God Little and Festen.
As they closed out the show, Pradeep and Adam said: “The Space is a beautiful building but it’s the people who work and visit here who bring it to life – all of the performers, artists, designers and stage managers who’ve entertained, informed and enthralled us over the last 20 years.
“We owe so much to the staff, volunteers, trustees, workshop tutors committee members and partners who have helped the venue to grow and thrive and to overcome the challenges that come their way.”
The Space is currently showing Manifesto every day at 8pm until Saturday, October 8, with tickets available online .
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