Derby Playhouse’s future looks uncertain as funding package falls through

Derby Playhouse’s future has yet again been thrown into doubt after the venue was forced to go dark for the second time in nine months.

The regional producing theatre initially closed last December with the company forced into administration. It subsequently reopened this September after the team behind the venue managed to convince administrator Tenon Recovery that they had secured £300,000 of funds to pay back creditors and start up the Playhouse again.

However, investment for that proposal has since fallen through and Tenon has now closed the theatre while it weighs up its options – which includes a rival bid to run the theatre from Derby City Council.

Dillip Dattani, who is handling the case for Tenon, told The Stage that the administrator had been forced to close the theatre again because it was not willing to expose itself to any more risk than it had already.

He added: “The theatre board had been looking at buying the assets of the building for around £300,000. They had a window in which to raise the money and they couldn’t. We’ve been talking to them on a daily basis and we’ve also spoken to [Derby city] council who are also keen to take over the building. But, they have various hoops to go through because they are a council. So, we’ve been ongoing with the board and ongoing with the council. We’ve also been trying to get a steer from the major creditors about how to proceed.

“Both of the two sides are progressing in the right direction. We’re in overtime already, in theory we should have taken a decision two weeks ago, but because things are progressing every day, we think ‘well okay let’s just take it one more stage’. We’ve got them both working away, so that whoever comes up with the most tangible and deliverable situation, we’ll go with them.”

Karen Hebden, chief executive of the Derby Playhouse in administration, claimed that the board’s original rescue plan had been hit by the broader financial crisis, which had made acquiring investment much more difficult. She said that Tenon’s decision to close the venue again had left the company in “limbo”. She added that it was unlikely the Playhouse would be able to open for its Christmas show.

“We’ve sort of got a Mexican stand-off,” she explained. “The plan we were working on has basically had a hole shot through it. It’s not good and it’s very confusing for everybody.”

A spokeswoman from the council said that it was also unsure as to what was likely to happen and was waiting to hear back from Tenon.

She said: “We’re just waiting. Our offer is still on the table. At any point in the future we would be ready to step in and take over the Playhouse should it become available for theatre. We would certainly want to take over the Playhouse for producing theatre.”

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