The Rose Theatre in Kingston is celebrating its tenth birthday in 2018, with an anniversary season boasting highlights like Mel Giedroyc doing Shakespeare.

Having opened in 2008 under the leadership of founding artistic director Sir Peter Hall, the theatre endured a difficult beginning, but chief executive Robert O’Dowd believes they are now getting it right.

He said: “I think Kingston wanted a theatre, and it got one. We’ve done some amazing work over the initial ten years.

“Early days were challenging, but I think in the last five years we’ve settled into a rhythm and increased the quality.”

The Rose, in High Street, has had stars including Dame Judi Dench grace the stage, and John Malkovich in as a director, despite being very young for a theatre.

Until April 29, there will be an exhibition showing exhibits from the theatre’s most memorable productions, including Dame Judi’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Mr O’Dowd said: “I wasn’t sure about the exhibition – doing it after just ten years could seem a bit self-satisfying, but it was nice to capture that moment, and the reaction has been really positive.

“And if we don’t do it at ten, we might have to wait for 25, or even 50 years. I’m pleased with it.”

The theatre’s anniversary season will include a new double-bill Hogarth’s Progress, including a world premiere of The Taste of the Town, and Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing with John Hopkins and Mel Giedroyc as feuding lovers Benedick and Beatrice.

Mr O’Dowd said: “I think having Mel Giedroyc in house doing Shakespeare is very exciting. People perhaps don’t know her acting pedigree, which is strong.”

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Mel Giedroyc and John Hopkins preparing for Much Ado About Nothing (photo by Mark Douet)

Looking to the future, the Rose will continue to do what it does best, but Mr O’Dowd thinks subtle changes are still needed in the industry.

He said: “The industry as a whole needs to draw more young people. The industry might have left people aged under 35 behind.

“That’s not to say we don’t have lots of young people coming to the theatre to enjoy serious drama, but to broaden our audience base, we might have to think about doing something edgy or challenging.”

With the first ten years of the Rose nearly finished, Mr O’Dowd issued a thanks to the many people who have been involved.

He said: “I really want to thank the people and businesses in Kingston who have been involved from even before 2008, especially our friends and volunteers. They are so important to what we do, and we are eternally indebted to those people.”