A West End musical star has vowed to sit in front of bulldozers if a historic Brighton arts venue is demolished.

Sheila Mathews, who lives in Southwick and played the lead in stage hits Charlie Girl and Me and My Girl is “outraged” at the threat to Brighton Hippodrome, which developers want to convert into a cinema.

The Grade II*-listed building was designed by legendary theatre architect Frank Matcham and became a bingo hall in 1965 after The Beatles performed there.

The Theatres Trust has put the building on its “at risk” register with the proposed conversion described as close to “heritage destruction”.

Sheila, the widow of London Palladium producer Charles Reading, who directed Prince Philip in a film made for Unicef, said: “It should never have closed in the first place.

“No one on Brighton Council, or the local MP at the time, lifted a finger to save that beautiful theatre.

“As a Grade II*-listed building, and particularly as one designed by Frank Matcham, the greatest theatre architect of all time, it should be protected for posterity.

“If the bulldozers come, I shall sit down in front of them. They will have to demolish me first!”

A campaign has been launched to restore the Hippodrome as a live performance venue and to preserve its integrity.

The Frank Matcham Society, set up in 1994, is campaigning to restore the theatre and has patrons including Ken Dodd, Prunella Scales and Timothy West.

Brighton and Hove City Council is in talks with Alaska development about an £18 million conversion into an eight-screen cinema and bar complex, which would involve demolishing the stage house and leasing out parts of the building.

Alaska plans to submit a planning application in December.

A spokesman said: “The current proposals offer the last chance to save the Hippodrome.

“Last month Alaska received positive and supportive pre-application feedback from both council officers and English Heritage, whilst the well-attended public exhibition saw more than 80% of attendees supportive of the plans to restore the building.”

For more information go to www.brightonhippodrome.co.uk.