Shock after thieves break into theatre and steal safe with takings

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A THEATRE director has spoken of his sadness after thieves trashed his historic venue before fleeing with a lead safe containing £1,000 in cash.

Groundlings Theatre, in Kent Street, Portsea, Portsmouth, was raided at around 1am yesterday.

DEVASTATED Richard Stride from the Groundlings Theatre after the burglary

DEVASTATED Richard Stride from the Groundlings Theatre after the burglary

Neighbours heard a loud bang and saw two men getting away with the heavy lead object.

Richard Stride, the theatre’s artistic director, was called by police and immediately went to check out what had happened.

Doors were smashed, rooms were turned upside down and the safe containing takings from recent shows had vanished.

Mr Stride said he was devastated people would attack an organisation which relies on funding and volunteers for help.

‘I felt completely gutted,’ he said.

‘It feels like you climb Everest and get near the top and someone shoves you straight down.

‘I feel I have got to climb it again for the 100th time. We are completely non-funded and the fact that we are open at all is because of the volunteers, the children who come here and the people who come to watch. What hurts me the most is the fact that the kids get so disheartened because they see it as an attack on them.’

The incident comes after cash was stolen from the theatre three years ago. The theatre now intends to work with English Heritage on improving security.

The rest of the day was spent sorting things out and police tape was put across the entrance of the box office. Mr Stride said he was amazed thieves had managed to haul the safe, which was hidden in the office, away from the building.

‘They are going to have real trouble getting into it,’ he said. ‘They are made so that people can’t get into them. It’s incredibly heavy. Two of us had to push it to get it in to position in the office. It was fairly well hidden.’

John Franks, 65, of St George’s Square, said he hoped action would be taken.

‘The building always looks open,’ he said. ‘Everything needs to be locked up. When I was young, nothing like this happened.’

A Hampshire Constabulary spokesman said: ‘We received a report at 1.04am about a burglary at the Groundlings Theatre in Portsmouth.

‘An investigation is under way.’

Witnesses should call police on 101.