It was a truly historic occasion. The new Royal Shakespeare Theatre opened its glass doors for the first time yesterday, after an extended period of previews and events, including a visit by the Queen last week (she only had to endure the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet).

The first impressions are intensely favourable. The new auditorium is a dramatic cockpit, the audience of 1000-plus hugging the stage on three sides, the acoustics perfect, the seating hard but comfortable; in the old theatre, those cinema seats sloped dangerously backwards, encouraging slipped discs and the embrace of Morpheus.

It feels very much like the Courtyard, in fact, only more so. I spot only one technical hitch: access in the stalls involves too much precarious tip-toeing along the stage's walkways, and the rows are ranged a little too closely for the obese and physically cumbersome.

Otherwise, it's mostly all good news. The entrance is still on the Clopton Bridge side, nearer Waterside, and the old foyer is now a long bar (though the lighting is too low) with all the Art Deco features standing out in splendid relief: the old silver box office is flying half way up the wall, like a jazz age Tardis.

The stalls coffee bar opens onto the terrace and riverside walkway, with all-weather tables and seating and a direct route through the gardens to Holy Trinity church. Splendidly restored, too, is the Victorian brick facade of Elisabeth Scott's original 1932 building, and the windows and crenellations are as good as new, and newly seen.

There's a capacious lift to the third floor restaurant, which affords magnificent views across the river to the fields beyond, and also over the town on the other side.

The RSC is running its own kitchen. Bream and shrimp risotto was a plesant enough main course, and steak-eaters seemed happy with their little lot, despite a slightly depressing air of old-hat nouveau cuisine about the plates. Service was abysmal: as in the bars, staff seemed callow and under-trained. Come on, chaps, look lively!

The opening productions were the familiar revivals of King Lear and Romeo and Juliet, both excellent. I much prefer Greg Hicks' spiky and hollowed-out Ben Gunn of a Lear to Derek Jacobi's, and Sam Troughton and Mariah Gale are the best adolescent star-crossed lovers in living memory.

I look forward to seeing how the new Swan fits into all this, and it was a real adventure to both rediscover the old theatre in a new guise and allow new vibes and energy to flood through treasured memories and heartache.

Suitably enough, my first night guest was Pamela Harris, former hostess at the Dirty Duck and now happily recovered, four stones lighter, from a series of complicated operations. We sipped champagne and toasted a new era.

On the restaurant level, between shows, I found Michael Wood, television historian extraordinaire, and a governor of the RSC, who is making a documentary of the new theatre, from start to finish, hopefully for the BBC.

Wood's great RSC idol (and one of mine) was the late, great Ian Richardson, whose silver, brassy tones may be heard every now and then in the voice of Greg Hicks, our most gifted and idiosyncratic heroic actor, inside or outside of the RSC.

Richardson's ashes are stowed under a seat in the front stalls. He also has a new bench, the nearest to the front entrance, named in his honour.

I sat on it to make a few telephone calls, and felt my diction improving with every syllable. By the time I finished, you could hear me at the end of Sheep Street. God bless, Ian, and welcome to the new theatre.