Belfast Telegraph

Uni theatre 'dream' for 'old' Pegg

Simon Pegg has described opening a theatre named after him at the university where he learned his trade as a "dream" - though he joked that returning there made him "feel very old".

The actor, comedian and writer graduated from the University of Bristol in 1991 before becoming a household name through Spaced and blockbusters including Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz.

Today, he opened a new theatre named in his honour at the university's student union, which has undergone a £30 million transformation over the past five years.

During his visit, Pegg met student fans but also had time to catch up with his old lecturer and reminisce about "student high jinks" such as throwing shopping trolleys from the roof of a hall of residence.

Pegg joked that the changes to the building - the largest purpose-built student union in Europe - made him feel old, along with students using mobile phones and computers.

"It's wonderful and I feel very honoured. It's a lovely thing to have been educated here and get this accolade - and it is an accolade," he said as he sat in The Pegg Studio Theatre.

"The university is so much nicer now - it smells better, it looks better. There's a degree of palpable evolution that has occurred here.

"I looked at all the students today, talking to them, and the difference is as simple as them all having mobile phones - that made me feel very old because we didn't have phones in my day.

"I remember doing all my essays on an electric typewriter and that felt modern. It's lovely to see the building being so cared for and modernised in such an effective way.

"It's kind of like a dream in a way, you always think 'One day I'll be able to go back where I grew up and say hey, look what I've done' and that's this, which is an amazing thing.

"It's something that doesn't escape me in any way, I feel very lucky to be in this position."

The Pegg Studio Theatre sits in the university's Richmond Building on Queen's Road in Clifton, Bristol, which now boasts 200 new study spaces with spectacular views across the city.

It is one of two state-of-the-art theatres and is situated near two cafe bars, several activity rooms, a digital media suite, dance and music studios and a refurbished gig venue.

Students voted to name the theatre in honour of the famous alumnus, whose extended essay examined how Marxist modes of critical theory could be applied to Star Wars.

"My dissertation was about comedy and I did an extended essay about Star Wars about consent," Pegg said.

"It was about how by watching a film and not recognising its innate prejudices you are, by interacting with it, consenting with those."

Pegg spoke about his dissertation and student days with Professor Simon Jones, head of theatre at the university, who lectured the actor from 1988 to 1991.

"Simon was a fantastic student," Mr Jones said. " He was there at a particularly creative time; for example, he was in a play in his second year with the playwright Sarah Kane.

"She was also a student here, along with David Walliams, Dominic Diamond, and various comics as well. T here was a fantastic mix in the drama department at that point."

The Richmond Building, which is the size of four football pitches, was built in 1965 and then included a barber, bakery, dining rooms and a swimming pool.

It has now been completely modernised, with moss growing on the interior walls of The Balloon cafe bar and a "brown roof" from local flora and recycled materials creating an extension.

Pegg said he had fond memories of the building and remembered spending time in its bars and music venue during his student days.

"There were lots of student high jinks that spring to mind, like throwing shopping trolleys off the top of Goldney Hall, which you should never do and it was very foolish," he added.

"I remember the years being very different. The first year was very much about acclimatisation and then it all boils down to your third year, when you are very, very busy.

"I never got nostalgic about my first year in my third year because I really enjoyed the work even though it was a lot of deadlines and a lot of thinking.

"I've re-read a couple of the essays when I was here and it is like reading stereo instructions - I realise I was used to thinking in a very particular way."

Other famous names who studied drama at the university include Matt Lucas, Derren Brown, Michael Winterbottom and Charlotte Richie.

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