No swearing or lewdness, but you can carry on puffing

The New Theatre Royal, then in Commercial Road, now Guildhall Walk.
The New Theatre Royal, then in Commercial Road, now Guildhall Walk.
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You may have seen the extension being built off Exchange Road behind the New Theatre Royal in Guildhall Walk.

It will make a big difference to the theatre when new dressing rooms and reception areas are built, but there will, of course, be no smoking inside the building.

How different then to 90 years ago when the council’s Watch Committee met to grant a licence for ‘the performance of stage plays’ at the theatre.

Conditions were strict and managers were not allowed to put on any show that was improper, indecent or suggestive. Roy Chubby Brown or Jim Davidson would have had no chance of appearing then.

No ‘improper’ characters were to be allowed into the theatre and there was to be no obscene language, drunkenness or improper behaviour.

Good manners, order and decorum had to be observed at all times and an official servant of the theatre had to be on hand to watch over matters during every performance.

However, the committee ruled it had no objection to smoking during performances...

The accommodation for the theatre was far greater than today. Records of the time reveal there were: stalls – 174; pit – 398; circle – 186; upper circle – 228; gallery – 485; boxes – 38. Total: 1,509.

On top of this, there was capacity for 400 standing patrons, so a total of 1,909 could have possibly attended on a good night.

Add to this the Hippodrome, Prince’s Theatre, Kings Theatre and the Colosseum and Portsmouth people must have been great theatregoers.