CROOKS smashed their way into a theatre and stole cash which had been donated by generous visitors to help pay for a massive redevelopment project.

Yobs broke through a window on the side of the Mercury Theatre in Colchester town centre when the building was locked overnight.

When they made their way inside, they targeted coin cascades which theatregoers had used to donate loose change to the Mercury Rising project.

It is thought the crooks got away with less than £100.

The break-in happened overnight last Wednesday which, coincidentally, was the day which marked 46 years of the theatre being based at their current Balkerne Gardens home.

Marketing manager Amy Carbonero said: "We’re devastated this has happened.

"Not only have funds so kindly donated by the public been taken, but the donation box built by our workshop team has been damaged and put out of action.

"As a charity, we depend upon donations to sustain our work, and would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have made a contribution towards our fundraising appeal – both before and since this incident.”

The Mercury Rising project is an attempt to raise almost £9million to extend and refurbish the theatre.

It is hoped the works which will include the introduction of a new large foyer and cafe area, a new production block which has space for community activities and rehearsals and a fresh entranceway for the theatre will help to safeguard the theatre for future generations in the years to come.

Funding worth £7million has already been secured thanks to grants from Arts Council England, Colchester Council and Essex County Council but the theatre has to raise the remaining £1.9million to ensure the project goes ahead.

Anyone with information about the burglary is asked to contact Essex Police on 101 quoting reference 42/65180/18.

Witnesses can also give details to charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 55511 or at

Donations to the Mercury Rising appeal can be made online at