Film star's gift will put students centre stage
While the world waits to see just how many awards the film collects at Sunday's Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles - it is nominated for 13 - theatre-lovers in this country are already celebrating.
Dame Judi, nominated for an Oscar for her performance as Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love, has donated the three-storey replica of the Elizabethan theatre used in the film to the Collins Music Hall Trust. It is understood that she was given the pound;500,000 set as a thank-you.
The set will be erected on the Islington Green site of the former Collins Music Hall, the oldest music hall in England and home to such performers as Charlie Chaplin and Tommy Cooper.
A trust fund is being set up in Dame Judi's name and will take a portion of the theatre's profits to distribute to drama students.
The project currently has the working name The Rose Theatre at Collins but there is no timescale for it as yet.
The film set is in storage in eight 40-ft trailers around the country and Dame Judi, who has paid all storage costs herself, will be reimbursed by the Collins Music Hall Trust. However, she has told them she will plough the money back into the trust fund in her name.
Michael Morris, general manager of both the Old Vic and the Collins Music Hall Trust, said: "This is the most phenomenal gesture, both in supporting London theatre and young people. There has been quite a lovely outpouring of support for this project."
A few years ago the Trust, working with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, attempted to build an pound;18 million theatre on the Collins site, but its bid for National Lottery cash was rejected.
"Judi Dench wanted to do something to support young people and this is just brilliant," said Mr Morris. "At one stroke she has met our needs and brought a tremendous excitement and buzz to the theatre."