PORTSMOUTH may only be left with one fully-functioning theatre by the end of this year.
The Groundlings Theatre in Kent Street, Portsea, is in jeopardy after it had £6,000 stolen, as reported in The News.
With St Peter’s Theatre, in Fraser Road, Southsea, also under threat of closure and the New Theatre Royal in Guildhall Walk shutting for a £4.25m refurbishment, there are fears for the arts scene in the city.
Richard Stride, artistic director at Groundlings, said: ‘St Peter’s could close in six months time and a lot of drama groups, who are with them, are reliant on us being open.
‘We already have a lot of schools and companies saying they don’t know where they can go.
‘And the New Theatre Royal will be closing for refurbishment at the end of the year, which means we would only have the Kings Theatre.
‘I have nothing against the Kings, but it wouldn’t leave much choice for smaller theatre groups for a venue. This could devastate the arts in Portsmouth full stop.’
This view is backed by the artistic director of drama group HumDrum, which was based in Portsmouth, but moved to Havant in 2003.
James George said: ‘I completely agree with the comments Mr Stride is making.
‘We had to move out of Portsmouth to Havant because there wasn’t a suitable venue for us in the city. It is a great shame for the city.’
But Portsmouth City Council says money has been pumped into the arts. It bailed out The New Theatre Royal with a £50,000 loan payment which was due at the end of January. And a further £60,000 will also be paid between now and June.
Arts chief Cllr Lee Hunt said there is also Opera in the Park as well as visiting Shakespeare performances from The Globe Theatre.
‘The city council has invested millions of pounds in the past few years to help theatres,’ he said.
‘It is an unfortunate coincidence that this has happened at the same time.’