Opening of Portsmouth theatre scheduled four years after go-ahead

The New Theatre Royal, in Guildhall Walk, was given the go-ahead for the refurbishment in 2011
The New Theatre Royal, in Guildhall Walk, was given the go-ahead for the refurbishment in 2011
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THE opening of the city’s oldest playhouse is coming closer more than three years after plans to transform it were given the green light.

The New Theatre Royal, in Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth, was given the go-ahead for a £4.5m refurbishment in November 2011 by Portsmouth City Council - which has now agreed to give the theatre £150,000 towards the makeover.

But unforeseen works and the need for a huge fundraising effort has seen the theatre yet to open. It took the theatre just eight months to fund the initial £4m for the project which it received through grants and trusts.

And much to the delight of the New Theatre Royals chief executive Caroline Sharman, the first demolition happened in April 2013 by ISG Construction, which built the 2012 London Olympic Velodrome.

Ms Sharman said: ‘When the first hole appeared in the wall, it was exciting.

‘It was the start of the massive project that we had been fundraising for.’

The project, in association with the University of Portsmouth, has seen an extension built at the back of the theatre housing changing rooms, toilets, classrooms and a space which could be used as a small theatre.

With such a big transformation, the theatre started fundraising again at the start of last year in a bid to raise £500,000 which would finish the back of the theatre.

To help raise the money, two charity events were held including an air-guitar record-breaking attempt and a comedy evening.

In March 2014, £250,000 was raised for the theatre and an audition call for the first show The Mudlarkers was held.

But continuing works saw the theatre miss its planned opening in autumn.

Ms Sharman added: ‘We did hope to open last autumn but some things you cannot account for.

‘Like all projects, there have been delays.’

After securing a loan of £150,000 from Portsmouth City Council, the theatre aims to open for its first show in autumn.