Matt Smith named National Youth Theatre patron
Doctor Who star Matt Smith has been named as the latest patron of the National Youth Theatre (NYT).
Smith, who trained with the theatre as a teenager, surprised current members by visiting rehearsals in London.
The 140-strong cast were putting the final touches to their Olympic and Paralympic welcome ceremonies.
Smith said the theatre "completely transformed my life. No understatement. I'm proud to be a part of it still. I care very deeply about it".
The NYT's artistic director and chief operating officer, Paul Roseby, knew Smith when he was training with the theatre.
"Matt is a perfect role model for the latest generation of brave new talent. Raw, fearless and a passion for theatre is something that doesn't just sum up our company but also the wonderful Matt Smith.
"As we continue to operate in challenging economic times, like everyone in the arts, it's always good to have a Doctor in the house."
Smith joined the NYT in 2002 and won critical acclaim for his performances as Thomas Beckett in its production of Murder in the Cathedral at London's Southwark cathedral and Basoon in The Master and Margarita at the Lyric theatre in Hammersmith.
The NYT has also announced it is changing its age range for budding actors and theatre technicians from 14 - 21 to 16 - 25 in order to help young people not in education, employment or training get on to its social inclusion programme.Financial constraints
Founded in 1956, the NYT's alumni include Dame Helen Mirren, Daniel Craig, Colin Firth, Rosamund Pike, Daniel Day-Lewis, Orlando Bloom, Catherine Tate, Sir Ben Kingsley, Ashley Jensen, Sir Derek Jacobi, Chiwetel Ejiofor, David Walliams, Matt Lucas and Hugh Bonneville.
But the organisation, which is a registered charity, found itself in financial difficulty earlier this year.
A statement issued in April said the theatre was, like many arts charities, "operating in a challenging economic climate and currently experiencing some financial constraints".
But thanks to support from Arts Council England and other organisations, the NYT says it is now back on track.