It’s out with the old and in with the new at city’s theatre

From left, Terence Rierkert, Matt Chapman, Steve Kramer, Dan Deeks, Theresa Newstead, Simon Freeman and Josh Roux
Picture: Ian Hargreaves (170948-1)

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CAMPAIGNERS have spent years raising money towards rebuilding a huge chunk of Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal.

Now at long last work on the backlot of the building, which was destroyed in a fire in 1972, can get going because all the funding is in place.

(l-r) Caroline Sharman director of New Theatre Royal, Gioia Minghella, Penny Mordaunt MP, John Craven Vice-Chancellor of Portsmouth University, Cllr Frank Jonas Lord Mayor of Portsmouth and Councillor Rob Wood. 'Make your Mark! event to mark the start of the rebuilding of New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (13516-853)

(l-r) Caroline Sharman director of New Theatre Royal, Gioia Minghella, Penny Mordaunt MP, John Craven Vice-Chancellor of Portsmouth University, Cllr Frank Jonas Lord Mayor of Portsmouth and Councillor Rob Wood. 'Make your Mark! event to mark the start of the rebuilding of New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (13516-853)

Dressed in hard hats and luminous jackets, community leaders came together at the theatre in Guildhall Walk last night to celebrate the beginning of the new £4m project.

The team, which included Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt and the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Councillor Frank Jonas, threw bits of old wood into a skip to show that the theatre’s past can now be left behind.

Cllr Jonas said: ‘This has been long awaited. It’s a great day for everyone involved.’

The ‘Make your Mark’ event was open to guests and they were given glasses of champagne as they walked into the theatre on a red carpet. There was also a variety show with performances from singer Andrew Foster, local choir group Spinnaker Chorus and students from Southzone Dance Academy, Highbury College and the University of Portsmouth. Anne Burrill, who is a trustee of the theatre, said: ‘We have been waiting a long time for this moment.

‘This has been our way of saying thank you to all of those who have supported us.’

A huge board in the dress circle on which people have written their memories of the theatre will become part of the new building, which will partly be used by the university’s performing art students. Work is due to begin in the next couple of weeks once a contractor has been assigned to the job.