Oscar winning actress Dame Helen Mirren has thrown her financial backing behind Greenwich Theatre, praising the good work it does with young playwrights and actors.

Today, the theatre announced the appointment of three new patrons including Helen.

Lucy Bailey, regular Royal Shakespeare Company director, and winner of the Whitbread Book Prize, Ali Smith join the 67-year-old actress in supporting the cause.

Helen, who is preparing to play the Queen in the West End opening of Peter Morgan’s new play, The Audience, said: “I am delighted to support Greenwich Theatre by becoming a patron.

“At a time when theatres face so many financial challenges the work that Greenwich Theatre does with young and emerging theatre makers, guaranteeing them a break in this tough industry, is inspiring.”

The star’s career began in the role of Cleopatra at the National Youth Theatre.

From those beginnings she has become an international star, with her leading role in The Queen in 2006 earning her an Academy Award, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award and BAFTA Award for Best Actress.

Lucy Bailey, one of the foremost stage directors in English Theatre, said: “When I first came to London I used to travel across the city to see the shows at Greenwich Theatre.

“I’ve since moved south and have lived in Greenwich for 17 years.

“Compared to north London, the south of the capital does not have enough cultural provision - Greenwich Theatre has been and continues to be a beacon in a relative cultural desert.”

Ali Smith, Whitbread winner for her novel The Accidental, added: “I couldn't be prouder to be a patron of Greenwich Theatre.

“I've seen some of the best, most unexpected, most energised and most intelligent theatre there that I've ever seen.

“It's the kind of place you leave on a high.

“Greenwich Theatre makes space for risk-taking theatre right across the board(s).

“I particularly love the way it welcomes productions from young people still in education. “Greenwich Theatre is the place for a whole new education in what's possible.”

James Haddrell, director of Greenwich Theatre, has been working over the past five years to transform the venue into a home for emerging theatre makers and an inspirational resource for children and young people interested in watching or being a part of live performance.

He and the team have made it the kind of venue where you will find unusual, challenging, exciting new theatre.

James said: “That work is beginning to show real results, our audiences have doubled in five years, and we now support a host of young companies, from school age to emerging professionals, in carving out a place in this competitive but thrilling industry.

“We could not be more proud to now announce three such distinguished figures as our new patrons.

“An actress who has journeyed from the National Youth Theatre to the stage at the Oscars, a writer who has supported young people by denying professional applications to stage her work in favour of an ambitious school production, and a director with a reputation as one of the most significant stage directors in this country who had the integrity and commitment to open a new venue, the Print Room, at a moment when public subsidy was clearly dwindling in the arts – there could not be three more passionate artists to champion our work, or three people whose commitments and own life stories better suit the work that we are now doing at Greenwich Theatre.”

Visit greenwichtheatre.org.uk for upcoming shows.