“JAMES Bond” is joining the mission to open the doors of the Chester Gateway once again.
Sir Roger Moore, a former resident of Heswall, Wirral, who was evacuated to Chester during the war, is already behind the campaign to reopen the Chester Odeon as a cinema.
Speaking from New York, where he is promoting his autobiography, Sir Roger, he said: “Having started my career treading the boards, I love theatre.
“I know too the value of regional theatres to communities, actors and stage workers. I am saddened to hear that the Gateway stands empty and can but hope this campaign will help see it in action once again. I’m available for work offers!”
Other celebrities supporting the campaign are:
Likely Lad Rodney Bewes, who starred in Billy Liar at the Gateway in its second ever production in 1968 and at the end of its life in Three Men in a Boat in October 2006.
He said: “It’s the only theatre I know where the scenery door is located on the third floor. When I did Three Men In A Boat with a 26-foot antique boat, it was hoisted up by a crane. Chester has a great tradition of theatre, it would be so sad to let it slip away.”
Fellow Likely Lad James Bolam starred in the Gateway’s first ever production in November 1968, The Double Case History of Dr Valmy by Antonio Buero-Vallejo.
Liverpool playwright Willy Russell, who created Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine, said: “I was very sorry indeed to learn that the regeneration scheme, with its plans for a new performing arts centre in Chester, has stalled.
“In terms of theatre-goers, this would not have been critical had the Gateway remained open and operational although, as we know, the Gateway is now closed.
“Given the delay in the proposed regeneration, surely the Gateway which is, after all, still intact, could be put to a few more years good use.
“A city like Chester deserves its own theatre and will be a lesser city for the lack of one. Yes, I do understand that people do need hospitals, schools, roads and all the other paraphernalia of life today.
“But we also need libraries, museums and theatres – where we can go to laugh at our foolishness, weep at our folly, thrill at how crazy and how sublime we poor humans can be.”
Russell’s play Breezeblock Park is currently being staged by Tip Top in the Forum Studio Theatre, part of the Gateway building.