In May, we reported that Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST) had gone into administration, just weeks after being forced to close their doors due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. However, it has been announced today that the theatres were unable to find a buyer and thus will close permanently.
In a statement, Greg Palfrey, one of the joint administrators appointed from Smith and Williamson, said:
“This is a sad day for the theatre industry in the UK, bringing the final curtain down on nearly 60 years of history of NST as a venerable performing arts institution in Southampton. Regrettably, we have no choice but to make all 86 staff redundant, bar a handful retained in the short term to help us with the administration, as NST can no longer be sold as a going concern.[…] Our thoughts are very much with employees and their families, as well as freelance artists and theatremakers.”
Nuffield Southampton Theatres are an integral part of Southampton’s arts scene. As well as the theatre on our very own Highfield Campus, they also have the ‘City’ venue in Guildhall Square, part of Southampton’s Cultural Quarter, which opened in 2018. In 2015, NST Theatre was named Regional Theatre of the Year at The Stage Awards. Recent highlights include hosting the world premieres of the stage adaptations of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox and David Walliams’s Billionaire Boy The Musical. They also have a focus on local stories, including The Shadow Factory, Howard Brenton’s play telling the story of Southampton’s Spitfire production in World War 2. At The Edge, we have been lucky enough to attend numerous events at NST over the years, including a Q&A session with associate actor Tom Hiddleston. The theatres were also likely to be an integral part of Southampton’s bid for City of Culture 2025.
Tributes to the NST have been flooding in across social media. Among them, playwright James Graham tweeted:
Southampton’s Nuffield Theatre is closing for good. 60yrs of investment, training & serving its community. All profitable in normal times, just needed shortfall funding while closed & it didn’t come in time
So sorry to the 86 made redundant, & the locals who loved their theatre pic.twitter.com/zPT98oVy7b
— James Graham (@mrJamesGraham) July 2, 2020
Their closure is not only devastating for our city, but for the theatre industry as a whole, as there have been frequent warnings that the pandemic would have a detrimental impact on the future of the arts. In a recent interview for Channel 4 News, Dame Judi Dench lamented her fears over when, or even if, theatres would reopen, saying “I don’t know, certainly, I’m sure not in my lifetime”. Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre announced recently they are not planning to reopen until December, and some theatres such as Norwich Theatre Royal have already cancelled their Christmas pantomimes as the shows take months of planning and are simply too risky to continue with without more specific government guidance on when they can safely reopen.