Peterborough’s troubled Broadway Theatre, closed in 2011 after fraud left it in financial disarray, is set to reopen in September.
Two local entrepreneurs have launched a bid to take over the venue, though it will not initially be staging theatre.
The theatre shut after its manager Paul Coxwell led the venue into financial difficulty, owing hundreds of thousands of pounds to producers and suppliers. He was convicted of fraud and breaching court orders in 2014 and sentenced to more than three years in jail.
Now, Peter Dawe and Mark Ringer, who recently ran unsuccessfully to be the first elected mayors of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, are in the final stages of a deal with the theatre’s owner, Rinaldo Fasulo, to lease the Broadway.
Speaking to The Stage, Dawe explained that he anticipated the deal would be finalised “within two weeks”, with plans for the theatre to reopen in September.
However, due to the theatre’s shallow stage and lack of fly-loft, Dawe said “there will be, at least initially, a preponderance of music, comedy and similar”, rather than stage plays.
He continued: “We would love there to be theatre, but the theatre production companies will have to be a little bit innovative. We would be very enthusiastic to meet production companies who believe they can perform in that area.”
Bill Kenwright Limited executive director Steve Potts has said that, due to the new operators’ reluctance to invest in improving the stage, the company is “no longer in active talks” with Dawe and Ringer about taking the company’s work there.
Potts explained: “Mark Ringer confirmed to me this week it is not his intention to invest anything in the stage area of the Broadway, which is contrary to when BKL operated the theatre and to the advice I’ve given to Mark.
“Without investment and requisite theatrical expertise it is simply not safe, or in most instances possible, to present shows of scale, due to the limitations of the stage area.”
He continued: “My hope for the Broadway is that the venture as planned proves successful to the point where the operator reconsiders investing in the stage area, and therefore the theatre’s long-term future. In the meantime I wish Peter Dawe and all at the Broadway the best of luck.”
Neither Dawe not Ringer have any previous experience running a theatre. Dawe created the UK’s first commercial internet service provider Pipex in 1988 and set up the Internet Watch Foundation in 1996, whcih aims to combat child pornography online, while Ringer is the founder of local music event the Willow Festival.
In July 2016 plans were revealed to turn the theatre into a luxury apartments, which Dawe described as “vandalism”.
“I was a bit shocked that the local council were willing to sacrifice it. The Broadway Theatre should fundamentally anchor the whole entertainment scene of the city centre,” he said.