A VETERAN English actor has thrown down the gauntlet to young actors from The King’s School in Chester.

Ronald Pickup, who recently played opposite Sir Ian McKellen in an aclaimed production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, was at the city’s independent school to open the new Vanbrugh Theatre.

He said: “A lot of enthusiastic, dedicated and inspired people have had the vision to invest in this theatre, now use it!”

Mr Pickup, a King’s old boy, recalled putting on plays in the school refectory in the days when boys were taught in a building next to Chester Cathedral.

He said: “I remember the smell of medieval cabbage and the ghosts of old abbots looking down on us.”

King’s students and former students presented an hour-long evening of entertainment, including excerpts from the schools 2010 musical Les Misérables, before the official opening on Monday evening, June 27.

The theatre is named after the dramatist and architect Sir John Vanbrugh (1664-1726), who was a student at The King’s School, then known as The Grammar School.

The project, designed by architects Child Graddon Lewis, cost £1.2m, and was part-funded by a legacy left to the school by former King’s Scholar, Roger Snelson, with the remainder met from school funds.

Speaking to The Chronicle at a reception after the event Ronald Pickup expressed his dismay on discovering that Chester city itself has no theatre.

He said: “It was very unfortunate when The Royalty Theatre in City Road was demolished but not to have a theatre in this day and age is very sad indeed.”

Pickup’s first experience of acting was at the age of five when he joined his mother Daisy, née Williams, on stage at the Royalty, for a pantomime.