Lisbon Players facing final curtain at Estrela Theatre site

by CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]

An amateur English language theatre group in Lisbon is set to lose its battle with the British Government in the Portuguese court.

While still awaiting the final decision from a Lisbon Civil Court, the judge’s preliminary findings at the last hearing at the end of October indicated that the case will swing in favour of the British Government.

The Lisbon Players, who refused a deal to quit the theatre building they have occupied and maintained since 1947 for what they called a paltry sum, decided to stand their ground and contest the British Government’s claim that they owned the building and land it stood on.

They used the premise that ownership was legally murky and unclear as well as squatters’ rights to bolster their claim to remain on the site.

A spokesman for the Lisbon Players, Artistic Director, Jonathan Weightman, told the Algarve Resident: “We feel we have to accept the judgement as we are not in a financial position to appeal against it, having exhausted our resources on the court case and on the recent remodelling of the theatre to comply with health and safety regulations.

“We are, of course, not happy about this outcome and still feel that there is much to be said on the subject of rights to the building. We have always been aware of the possibility of losing the case and without wishing to impugn the workings of Portuguese justice, we have always been very aware that our opponents in the case were big business and government, a powerful partnership.”

The Lisbon Players said that they remained confident in the work of their legal advisors and felt that they had done all in their power to win the case for them.

The Players also stated that whatever happened now they remained firm in their belief that the British Government had “made an error of judgement” in attempting to sell the building from which we have operated for the past 63 years” and which “we have maintained and remodelled at our own expense over this period”.

The theatre group also states that it has operated without subsidy or official support, and has fulfilled “a vital link in the maintenance of Anglo-Portuguese relations over this period, and continued to provide an intense programme of high quality drama, entertainment and education in English to Lisbon audiences at no cost of tax payers, British or Portuguese”.

“In their moment of victory we would like to ask them for magnanimity and grant to us what we asked for before the site was put on the market and what was indeed suggested as a solution by previous British ambassadors: namely the separation of Estrela Hall from the site and the official transfer of the building to the English Theatre Association (Associação de Teatro Inglês). If money is the issue it can be raised from the sale of the other buildings on the site that are at present vacant and unused”, said Jonathan Weightman.

The British Embassy, contacted on Monday for a statement on the latest situation, declined to comment until the final decision was officially handed down by the court.

In the meantime the Lisbon Players Programme continues at Estrela Hall.

For further information, please visit www.lisbonplayers.com.pt