CULTURE Secretary Maria Miller believes the transformation of Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal will breathe new life into the city’s cultural scene.
The minister praised the £4.5m project being carried out at the theatre in Guildhall Walk during a tour yesterday.
Mrs Miller told The News: ‘Portsmouth’s got a fantastic cultural heritage and the redevelopment of the New Theatre Royal is a way of taking that forward in the 21st century.’
As part of a £4.5m project, the back of the theatre is being rebuilt to include new rehearsal spaces and a small theatre named after Anthony Minghella, a famous director and producer.
The University of Portsmouth’s creative and cultural industries department will make use of it.
The front of the building will also be refurbished.
Work is expected to be finished by the end of the year.
Mrs Miller, Tory MP for Basingstoke, said: ‘What is particularly impressive is the way the old theatre is being given a new lease of life, but still retaining what is so beautiful and unique about it.’
Theatre director Caroline Sharman, who led the tour, said in reference to a culture conference held at Portsmouth Guildhall earlier in the day, said: ‘A lot of the conference down the road was about how critical culture is to the development and quality of a place.
‘That’s what we’re trying to do here with the university in linking up with it.
Flick Drummond, the Conservative Party’s parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth South, organised Mrs Miller’s trip.
She said: ‘This has been a massive project and a partnership project that includes the university and the council and it’s a historical build.
‘Art and culture are important in our community.
‘The more we have of it, the better.’
Alan Massey, theatre trustee, said: ‘It’s really important to have the profile of the theatre raised.
‘We have got a number of staff here who have had to swap their role in producing theatre to building a theatre.’
As reported, theatre fundraising events will be held soon, including an air guitar world record attempt on March 15 at Fratton Park.