The financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has caused Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST) to go into administration.

NST comprises venues at the University of Southampton’s Highfield campus and at a new £32m hub in Guildhall Square in the city centre and has run for 50 years. The closure of the NST has resulted in a severe drop in ticket sales and the resulting uncertainty about its reopening date has been ‘devastating’.

NST announced the cancellation of all performances until 31 May on 3 April. The majority of its 80 staff have been furloughed, and joint administrators Greg Palfrey and Steve Adshead are seeking buyers from the south coast office of Smith & Williamson.

Palfrey said: “[It is] a sad day not only for Southampton, of which NST has been a venerable part of the city’s cultural fabric for more than half a century, but for the country’s theatreland in general.

“We will do our best to sell the business and its assets, albeit in testing commercial conditions which have no parallel in modern British history … NST is a well-respected theatre company, with a range of assets, that could survive and thrive. A buyer would need to be patient because no one yet knows when theatres will reopen, or how social distancing measures would impact upon seating and stage and therefore revenues. However, for the right person or company, this presents a rare opportunity to acquire one of the leading and long-established theatre brands in southern England.”

In 2015, NST was named “regional theatre of the year” by the Stage newspaper, and plays an important role in Southampton’s bid to become UK city of culture in 2025. Its campus site, which has a 500-seat auditorium, cafe and bar, temporarily closed earlier in 2020 as part of a refurbishment programme.

NST is led by Samuel Hodges. It is one of Arts Council England’s national portfolio organisations and a registered charity, receiving additional core funding from the University of Southampton and Southampton city council.

Playwright James Graham said via Twitter: “So sad and senseless. A theatre loved locally, well attended, but ticket refunds due to the necessary shutdown means it has no cash and no sign of a cash injection from government. There’ll be many more soon without theatres receiving extra public support as seen in other sectors.”