British acting icon Dame Judi Dench and theatrical rising talent Jamael Westman have been announced as new patrons for a children’s theatre in Wimbledon.
The two acclaimed performers have joined the Polka Theatre to champion theatre and creative learning for young audiences across the UK.
This comes following a major £8.5million Future Polka redevelopment campaign, which will see the refurbished venue re-open its doors this autumn.
Polka Theatre’s Executive Director and Joint CEO Lynette Shanbury said: “Both are such talented performers, as well as being hugely passionate about the importance of theatre for children and young people.
“It is inspiring for the children we work with to have such extraordinary role models join us.”
The new state-of-the-art Polka Theatre venue will house two auditoriums and will provide world-class learning facilities for families, schools and the local community.
Dame Judi said: “Just like adults, children deserve the best theatre, and that is exactly what Polka does.
“I am incredibly passionate about the wonderful, positive impact that theatre can have on our lives and it is so important that starts from childhood.”
Dame Judi Dench is one of Britain’s most recognisable stars following her illustrious career on both stage and screen.
Rising to prominence performing at the Old Vic in the 1960’s, Dame Judi went on to become one of the most significant British theatre actors of the 20th century, working for both the National Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
She found international fame in 1995 after playing M, the head of MI6 and James Bond’s no-nonsense boss in Goldeneye, a role she played regularly until 2012’s Skyfall.
Dame Judi is one of Britain’s most decorated actors, having won an Academy Award, six British Academy Film Awards, four BAFTA TV Awards, seven Olivier Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and a Tony Award, as well as BAFTA and BFI fellowships, and a Special Olivier Award.
Dame Judi said, “Theatre opens doors to new worlds, gives flight to imagination and brings stories of all kinds to life.
“Polka inspires and brightens children’s lives, rousing their imaginations to run wild.
“The new building will make sure Polka can keep making extraordinary theatre so children can continue to dream in bright colours.”
Jamael Westman has established himself as one of Britain’s most exciting new theatrical talents in recent years.
Westman has starred in the titular lead role of the West End production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acclaimed historical musical Hamilton since 2017, and is currently playing the role in Los Angeles.
He also has upcoming television roles in the Apple TV+ series The Essex Serpent and in the Channel 5 series Anne Boleyn, where he plays Jane Seymour’s ambitious brother, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset.
Westman said: “I’ll never forget the first time I came to Polka Theatre.
“I saw some of the young people, explore, discover, and express themselves. It was palpably exciting and joyous.
“Polka Theatre continues to offer a safe space to do all of those things, as it empowers young people to then go out and be confident in themselves in all their wonderful individuality.”
Polka was founded by Richard Gill in 1967 as a touring company and by 1971 was attracting audiences of 250,000 people each year.
Following a lengthy fund-raising campaign, the Polka Theatre found its permanent Wimbledon home in 1979 and was opened Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother on the 20th November.
Today, Polka continues to lead the way in producing innovative, high-quality and often daring theatre for young audiences as one of the countries few dedicated children’s theatre venues.
To find out more about the Polka Theatre, visit their website.