Happy birthday to us!
Tue 4 Oct 2016
We are celebrating our fifth anniversary today (Tuesday).
The Marlowe Theatre opened on 4 October 2011 after a £25.6 million redevelopment, and has since become one of the country’s most successful regional venues, bringing many of the world’s greatest theatre companies to Kent. These include the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), Glyndebourne (opera), Matthew Bourne (dance), and the Philharmonia (orchestra).
The Marlowe Studio has gone from strength to strength, and now has a highly-regarded programme of contemporary theatre, comedy and music. It provides vital opportunities for aspiring writers and makers of new theatre, including The Marlowe, which has staged two home-grown productions there (Beached by Melissa Bubnic and A Better Woman, by Whitstable’s Simon Mendes da Costa).
A total of 1.81 million people have seen 2,524 productions on both stages in the last five years. Many of these productions have been accessible performances: the theatre runs a regular programme of audio-described, captioned and signed shows, and relaxed performances have been a recent addition.
The biggest audience was for the 2015/16 pantomime, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (95,685 people; more than 99 per cent capacity).
Theatre Director Mark Everett is delighted with the figures, and said: "I would like to thank everyone who has helped make our first five years such a success by seeing a show here, or taking part in an event. I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of all our wonderful staff – without them, none of this would have been possible.
"In just a few, short years we have proved what we set out to achieve: a theatre for everyone that brings the best of everything to Canterbury and beyond."
Leader of Canterbury City Council Cllr Simon Cook said he was very proud of everything The Marlowe had achieved: "Its remarkable success in just five years shows how right the city council’s decision was to rebuild the theatre – a brave one at a time when the world was plunging into recession.
"It was all about making a massive gesture of confidence in the city as a destination to have fun in and where you can enjoy glorious nights out. And that confidence has been mirrored in the impressive range of national and international productions and theatre companies such as Glyndebourne, now bringing their finest work to the city.
"By the end of this financial year, the economic benefit it will have brought to the city will top £150 million. Shops, restaurants, bars and local suppliers have all seen the benefit of the thousands of people flocking to the city to enjoy the theatre’s shows.
"I am confident that based on its current track record, we have some terrific years of entertainment to look forward to at this wonderful venue."
Numbers continue to grow for the theatre’s creative and community activities, with 3,340 participants taking part in workshops for all ages in theatre, dance and playwriting over the last five years. Participants take part in The Marlowe’s annual community production: this year’s Stacked! saw 250 people on stage.
Marlowe Youth Theatre participant Charlotte Brown (18), of Boughton under Blean, has been involved for three years and says the experience has been "indispensable": "I joined as a shy 15 year old with a love of drama, and now as an 18 year old starting university, I've realised I owe so much to The Marlowe and its support. I have grown as a person due to the skills and confidence The Marlowe has instilled in me.
"What I am most proud of is how youth theatre enables so many people from all backgrounds and walks of life to be joined together through their love of drama and storytelling. As someone of Romani heritage, I was worried I wouldn't fit in, but I've made lifelong friends which is what I'm most grateful to The Marlowe for."
Ribs Norman, of Folkestone, has been a member of The Marlowe Playwrights for two years. She said: "It has given me the confidence and skills to write and promote my work. Since I joined, I've had my work performed by professional actors, taken a play on a mini-tour and even set up a fringe festival! Seeing my cabaret number The Widow’s Tale in Stacked! on the main stage was a real thrill and I'm humbled that it will be part of The Marlowe 5 Gala Performance. War Horse, Chicago, Ben Roddy and my piece on the same stage - I can't wait!"
The Marlowe Theatre now works with hundreds of children from schools across Kent each year. King Ethelbert, in Birchington, is a partnership school with The Marlowe and the RSC. Headteacher Kate Greig described the relationship as "hugely significant", and said: "Our students, by having access to the brilliant education team at The Marlowe Theatre and the RSC, have become much more self-confident, able to articulate thoughts, feelings, ideas and inspiration in a creative, knowledgeable way – quite simply The Marlowe and RSC input has made our students believe in themselves much more.
"This in turn has been a factor in the significant rise in results we have seen over the last two years which now makes us one of the highest performing non-selective schools in east Kent."
The theatre’s ground-breaking trainee schemes have so far enabled 14 young people the chance to develop successful careers in the industry. And The Marlowe has one of the largest Friends organisations in the country, with more than 14,000 members.
The Marlowe Theatre Development Trust (a registered charity) has been granted more than £500,000 to support the work of the theatre’s creative projects team. This includes The Marlowe Theatre Youth Bursary Scheme (Hollywood star and Canterbury boy, Orlando Bloom is Patron of the youth theatre).
Since opening, The Marlowe has won numerous awards, the most recent being UK Theatre’s Most Welcoming Theatre in the South East 2015.
To celebrate its fifth anniversary, the theatre is holding Marlowe 5 on Saturday and Sunday (8 and 9 October). Free shows, workshops, tours and displays will take place, along with a gala performance, featuring some of the acts who have performed at the venue in the last five years.
Marlowe 5’s Principal Sponsor is Pharon Independent Financial Advisers, in association with Kuoni; Media Sponsor: Kent on Sunday and Kent Life; Birthday Sponsor: Romax; Birthday Supporters: Dems, Majestic, Mickle Print, St. Edmund’s School, Canterbury, University of Kent, Whitehead Monckton.
*The total number of participants and shows is from 4 October 2011 to the end of Tuesday 27 September 2016.