Portsmouth's Groundlings Theatre 'dancing on a knife edge' as it moves ahead with A Christmas Carol show

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A HISTORIC theatre in Portsea is to put on its first production of the year after being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic – which has left the venue in a precarious position, according to the head of the theatre’s trust.

Groundlings Theatre in Kent Street will open its adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol this Friday.

The 18th century venue was set to put on Dick Whittington as a festive show – but the production was scrapped after Albert Road’s The Kings Theatre announced the same production as their Christmas pantomime.

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Helen Gibbs, chair of the Groundlings Theatre Trust, said: ‘That was really unfortunate. We decided to change production because we couldn’t take the risk as we are a very small theatre.

The Groundlings Theatre in Kent Street, Portsmouth. Picture: Sarah Standing (021019-7981)The Groundlings Theatre in Kent Street, Portsmouth. Picture: Sarah Standing (021019-7981)
The Groundlings Theatre in Kent Street, Portsmouth. Picture: Sarah Standing (021019-7981)

‘We have not heard from the theatre – but there’s no animosity on our part.’

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A Christmas Carol will be the first production from the Groundlings Theatre Trust, which took over the running of the venue in April after signing a lease with long-time director Richard Stride last December.

With the Covid-19 pandemic stopping productions since April, the theatre has been kept afloat through a combination of the government’s furlough scheme, a Portsmouth City Council grant, and a Theatres Trust grant to undertake a building survey.

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But the theatre has no reserves – and income over the next two months remains uncertain, according to Helen.

She said: ‘We hope to get more grants. We have an application in with the Arts Council.

‘If we don’t get any money coming in in January, then really serious decisions will have to be made.

‘We are dancing on a knife edge.

‘But we are very proud that we have been able to keep the theatre going while bigger venues have fallen by the wayside.’

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Seating will be limited to a quarter of normal capacity to comply with Covid-19 restrictions, and the theatre is able to offer alcoholic drinks – without food – through table service.

A Christmas Carol runs from Friday, December 11 to Wednesday, December 30, with tickets available at groundlings.co.uk.

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