It was back to the future when Only Fools and Horses’ John Challis re-opened two Chesterfield theatres ater a massive £700,000 refurbishment.
For John began his acting career at the Chesterfield Civic - now Pomegranate Theatre, before being lured into television where he famously portrayed dodgy car dealer `Boycie’.
“It’s really nostalgic to be back and they’ve done such a great job,” said John, looking around from the plush, red seats of the stalls. “It was all here, but not in such great shape.”
John acted in everything from The Tempest to Aladdin while in Rep at Chesterfield in 1964.
And he recalled a memory from the Winding Wheel, the other beneficiary of investment from Art Council England’s National Lottery-funded programme and Chesterfield Borough Council, which owns and runs both venues. “It was a cinema back then and I remember being there one afternoon as I wasn’t rehearsing. Then I suddenly realised I had a matinee, so I leapt up, ran down the road and got to the theatre just as the curtain was about to go up!”
The revamp will mean the Winding Wheel can stage more large-scale productions, such as West End tours, while the Pomegranate has new digital cinema equipment to show live broadcasts of performances from around the world. A satellite dish is also planned to be installed.
And despite this age of austerity, John encouraged people to support live theatre. “More importantly you should support your local theatre. These are so much worth supporting, they are very special buildings. People really need to care about them, unless they have a multi-millionaire to bankroll them.”