New Theatre Royal’s refurbishment on target after potential financial pitfalls

The New Theatre Royal in Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth.
The New Theatre Royal in Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth.
Lucie Jones and David Barrett in Legally Blonde. Picture by Robert Workman

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WORK to refurbish the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth is on target to begin in November.

Planning permission for the building and refurbishment work, which includes creating a new rehearsal space at the back of the theatre, will be sought in May or June this year, in time for a November start.

The £4m project was thought to have hit problems late last month, when Portsmouth City Council stepped in with £110,000 to help cash-flow problems.

But the Guildhall Walk theatre’s director Caroline Sharman said: ‘We always faced a rush to make sure we could be ready, and we’re back on target to get permission.

‘I’m looking for ways to keep us going on a small scale after work begins.

‘When the builders are working only on the back lot, I’m hoping we can put shows in the theatre, using the stalls bar as a dressing-room area, but when builders say “Hard hats only” I have to close.

‘Even then, we hope to go out to places like the Third Floor Arts Centre, Eastney Pumping Station and Southsea seafront to maintain audiences and income.’

But staff numbers will drop from November.

‘We won’t be able to afford more than core staffing,’ she said. ‘This was always inevitable, because we won’t have an income – though it’s never nice when it happens.

‘We expect the work to take 18 to 24 months.’