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  1. ITV Report

Brian Blessed warns of the 'peril' of cuts to arts as historical theatre marks 250th birthday

Brian Blessed, who trained at the Bristol Old Vic, warned against cuts to the arts. Credit: PA

This year marks a landmark moment in British theatre history as the Bristol Old Vic celebrates 250 years making it the oldest working theatre in the country.

Actor Brian Blessed, who enrolled at the theatre school alongside Patrick Stewart and Peter O'Toole in the late 1950s, described it as "magical" but warned against cuts to the arts.

"There is nothing like British theatre," Blessed told ITV News. "They're our lifeblood and people come from abroad to see our theatres.

"We must back them up."

The Bristol Old Vic opened in 1766, technically illegally and it had to disguise plays as concerts and hide its entrance from the public sight.

In 2012, the theatre completed a redevelopment of the Grade I listed Georgian auditorium. Now, there are plans to carry out a £12.5million renovation of the front of house.

The Bristol Old Vic in the 19th century Credit: Bristol Old Vic

Blessed said that revenue needed for the arts could be levied from the UK's thriving film industry.

"They get their artists from the theatre, that's where it all begins," he said.

The Bristol Old Vic redeveloped the Grade I listed interior in 2012. Credit: Bristol Old Vic

For me, it's a magical theatre. It is the most beautiful theatre in the world. It's gold and green and ancient and full of ghosts and great history.

– Brian Blessed
Brian Blessed in the 1960s after graduating from the Bristol Old Vic. Credit: Empics

The 'Flash' actor said he has many fond memories of his days at the theatre school.

He told ITV News of his 'love-hate' friendship with Peter O'Toole and the moment he ran naked with him through Leigh Woods to Clifton Green in the darkness.

And he told of playwright Harold Pinter's 'bad temper' that led him to punching him in the jaw at a party.

"O'Toole looked at me and said 'I think you've killed him'" he laughed. "They were exciting days."