From the imposing Guildhall to tiny rooms above pubs, Portsmouth has a number of different venues – all with a unique offering. This helps the city regularly attract touring shows from comedians, musicians and performers, whether they want to play to a few people or a few thousand.
The city’s premier venue is Portsmouth Guildhall, situated on Guildhall Square in the city centre. Dating back to 1890, the imposing building is today used for conferences, weddings and events – as well as being the civic home to the Lord Mayor. It was here that Pink Floyd debuted what would go on to become one of the most iconic albums of all time – Dark Side of the Moon. Today it hosts some of the biggest names in music, dance and comedy, with a standing capacity of 2,500.
Just a few metres along from Portsmouth Guildhall is the New Theatre Royal. The theatre’s history dates back to 1761 when it was originally sited in Old Portsmouth’s High Street. It moved to its current location, on Guildhall Walk, in 1854 (and was formally opened in 1856). A number of renovations followed – the most notable of which was in 1900 when the celebrated theatre architect Frank Matcham was engaged to help with its redesign and enlargement. Today the theatre has 700 seats and a varied events calendar.
A Matcham theatre is a feather in the cap for any city. Portsmouth has two, as Southsea’s Kings Theatre was also designed by the iconic architect. It was first opened in 1907 and has remained ever since a popular destination for musicals, comedy, plays, opera, dance and more. The theatre, which also has a vibrant community engagement programme, has a capacity of 1,600.
Somewhat smaller is the Groundlings Theatre, which occupies a historic Georgian building just a stone’s throw away from The Hard Interchange. The building was once a school, and the man who popularised the umbrella in Britain was born there. Today, the theatre puts on regular productions and stage schools, and has some 11,000 costumes and props available to hire.
Elsewhere is Portsmouth Pyramids centre, which is a sports complex during the day and a popular event venue at night. The Plaza holds 1,250 people for live shows and has welcomed some big names in the past, on their way to becoming arena acts. Meanwhile on Albert Road is the Wedgewood Rooms, which holds up to 400 people. It has been in operation for more than 25 years, bringing live music and comedy to Portsmouth, from bands that often go on to sell out arenas and headline festivals.