THE Earl and Countess of Wessex re-opened the region's largest theatre at the weekend.

Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie, officially re-opened the Sunderland Empire, which has undergone a £4.5m refurbishment, and met children performing in the hit show Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The couple spent the weekend attending a number of events in the city, including Sunderland's Remembrance Sunday service, where the Earl laid the first wreath.

Following its refit and extension, the Sunderland Empire is now the only theatre in the region between Manchester and Edinburgh capable of staging large-scale West End shows, such as Miss Saigon and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which is due to open next month.