The theatre had been a model of financial discipline, surviving previous crises, and even managing until recently to make a profit on ticket sales. But it has been unable to overcome the drop in attendances - from an average 70 per cent capacity in 1994 to 45 per cent now - caused by competition from two new theatres nearby. The situation has been exacerbated by debts incurred funding repairs to its 1910 building.
The accountants Price Waterhouse have been brought in as administrators to carry out an urgent review of the 633-seat theatre's financial position and raise funds aimed at helping the company survive long term.
The theatre was established in 1938 by John Counsell, who ran it until 1986. He handed over to Mark Piper, who has led the company ever since. It has never received a subsidy.