Dancing into the urban jungle

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This April resident company at Sadler’s Wells, Zoo Nation, will be bringing a bit of the urban jungle to our stage with their modern re-telling of all your favourite fairy tales. Here’s what our Arts Marketing Trainee, Sophie Shears, thought of it.


 

So, as the newbie in the office, I was pretty excited to be asked to go to a press night at Sadlers Wells in London to see Zoo Nation’s new spectacle, Into The Hoods: Remixed. However, with little background knowledge in hip-hop (that knowledge being watching Diversity on TV and dancing around in my bedroom to Kanye), I wasn’t quite sure whether it’d be for me. But the great thing about this performance is that you don’t need to be a previous fan of hip-hop or even dance in general, because I can guarantee you’ll come out a fan by the end of it.

The story launches into action and we see an illustrated projection of two children taking a walk through the forest, who get lost, ending up in the ‘Ruff Endz Estate’. This is when the screen is pulled up, and the stage is transformed into an urban jungle. All illustrations become reality.

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You can’t not appreciate the sheer talent that exudes from each and every dancer in the show. The theatre was buzzing with excited families (even the dads), as the stage lit up with an incredible ensemble of dancers and the rhythmic tale of all your classic fairy tale favourites began.

Through clever projections and lighting, a wide range of music and clever choreography, we are introduced to each character one by one. We meet all the much-loved classic fairy tale characters, Rap-on-zel, Spinderella, Jazz, Lil Red and The Wolf – all slightly more down with the kids than the storybooks you’re used to!

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From kung-fu fighting for an iPhone to dancing away in Granny’s nursing home with all the oldies, the story follows themes of peer pressure, city gang culture and testing morality. I could compare it to a hip-hop pantomime – laughs for all the family, spectacular talent, music for all ages – there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Miracle Man

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We talk to Derren Brown about his new show, coming to us next month.


Q: Derren, this is the second leg of the Miracle tour, following a hugely successful West End run. Are you looking forward to being on the road again?

Enormously. I’m only getting a three week break after the West End – just enough to catch my breath and maybe get away for a bit. It’s an enormously enjoyable show to do, and I’ve never toured straight after the West End before, which I think will be fun as it’s in such good shape. I can’t wait to get started.

Q:  What are the biggest challenges for you doing this show?

I had no idea if the second half would work at all when we started. In theory, my audiences are totally the wrong audiences to get to the place I need to get them to. As there’s no way of testing how an audience will respond without having an audience, I just had to get up there and do it on the first night and see how it went. It went very well, which was a huge relief. It still needed a lot of work, and after a week or two of shifting and polishing things, the show felt right. Since then we’ve continued to work on it and now it feels terrific – a very long way from its opening week in Dartford last year. It’s a bold and ‘ballsy’ second half, as all my favourite things are. Once I realised it was going to work well – as it could have fallen flat on its face – it’s been a joy to work on theatrically and get to a great place.

Q: Miracle has certainly captured the public’s imagination and ignited a lot of comment within the media. What would you say separates this show from previous tours?

Without getting too much into the content, this is the first show that is about things I find important. Others have had autobiographical bits in them, some more authentic than others, but this one is about things I find important. It has a philosophical underpinning I really care about. It’s ultimately, I suppose, about what makes us happier.

 

Q: Is it true that this is the last year you’ll be on tour in the UK for a while?

Yes it is. It’s been 14 years of touring, and that’s with writing a new show every two years. I may do something overseas for a change, but nothing major here in 2017. After that I’m not sure. I love touring so I don’t imagine I’m stopping for good quite yet. But a break would be lovely, not so much from the touring itself, but from the creation of new shows. It’s a lot of work getting them up to speed.

Q: What will you miss most about life on the road?

I enjoy the ease of having group of friends: it’s something I’ve never had socially. I choose my team based more than anything on how delightful they are to spend time with. Having a drink and a chat after the show as we all wind down is just wonderful. I like the change from week to week. One city feels like home, like you’ve been there forever, and then you’re off and it all starts again. That’s fun, I like changes of scene. And Sunday roasts as we travel from one city to another. Then there’s ‘day-off socks’: we have to wear black socks for the show so we go wild on Sundays and try to outdo each other with the wildest socks we can find. We’re pretty rock’n’roll like that. I think the Stones did the same in the 70s.

Q: Can you give us the latest progress report on your book about happiness? Can we expect it to be published this year?

I’m hoping so, yes. I’m editing it now and trying to get it down from 800 pages to something more manageable. I’ll miss writing it though – nothing compares to spending a stolen afternoon assembling your thoughts and finding the best language for them. It’s very edifying, and I feel I am at my best when I write. Once the book is on the shelf I move on and forget about it: I can’t ever read it in case I find errors or places where my thoughts have changed. Previous books have been whimsical and quick to write: this has been very involved and long-term for me. The challenge at the moment is to bring three years’ worth of thought and writing (that happened here and there when I had time on the road and between other projects) into something that hangs together well.

Derren Brown: Miracle is at The Marlowe Monday 8 February to Saturday 13 February.

 

Well-loved ballet tales

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The Snow Maiden

The Russian State Ballet Of Siberia will be with us at The Marlowe Theatre very soon, with lavish productions of four classical ballet favourites. This week of dance offers the perfect chance to experience the magic of classical ballet and are also an ideal introduction to dance for the younger members of your family too.

To help you decide which ones to see, we take a look at the stories behind each ballet.


 

Sleeping Beauty

The classic children’s fairytale, set to Tchaikovsky’s famous score. At her christening, a curse is placed on Princess Aurora by the evil fairy Carabosse that on her 16th birthday she will prick her finger on a spindle and die. But the good Lilac Fairy is able to soften the curse, so that Aurora will only fall into a deep sleep instead of dying, before being wakened after 100 years by the kiss of a handsome prince.

As well as Tchaikovsky’s famous score Sleeping Beauty also features the Rose Adagio, reputedly one of the most difficult sequences in classical ballet. It’s performed by Aurora and four suitors attending her birthday party.

The Snow Maiden

A traditional Russian folk-tale, this work is perfect for a company based in snowy Siberia. The Snow Maiden is captivated by the colourful people of the village, and leaves her land of frost and ice to join them, even falling in love with one of the young men there. But although he returns her love, Russian folk tales are not known for their happy endings, and this one is no different. The Snow Maiden melts away with the first rays of spring sunshine.

This is a brand new production, in it’s first tour of the U.K.

Giselle

Another great 19th century ballet classic. Boy meets girl, boy tells girl he loves her, girl then discovers he’s engaged to someone else, goes mad and dies, and is then forced to become part of a group of vengeful ghosts who plan to dance boy to death! It’s a ballet of two halves – the happy peasant village of the first half is a strong contrast with the sinister forest of the second.

Unusually, the story is not based around a traditional tale, but was written especially, although it is influenced by legends about vengeful female ghosts.

Originally performed in Paris in 1841, most of the choreography, which has come down to us, is from Russian revivals in in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Swan Lake

The ultimate classical ballet – if you think of ballet, it’s probably an image of Swan Lake, with it’s grand chorus line (or corps de ballet, to use its correct name) of ballerinas in white tutus, which comes to you first.

You probably know the story, but just to recap: Prince Siegfried is out hunting, and is about to shoot a swan, when it turns into a young woman. This is Odette has been cursed by the evil magician Von Rothbart to spend the day in the form of a swan – only by night can she regain her true form. The spell can only be broken if someone falls in love with her, and is always true to her. Siegfried promises to do this, but Von Rothbart tricks him by sending his daughter Odile, magically disguised to look like Odette (the two roles are traditionally played by the same dancer), and Siegfried falls for the deception. When he realises his mistake, he rushes to be with Odette, but both are now doomed. In most versions they commit suicide together, although there are variants.

This was the first ballet score written by Tchaikovsky. The story is partly based on a Russian folk-tale, The White Duck.

 

The Russian State Ballet Of Siberia are at The Marlowe Theatre Monday 29 February to Saturday 5 March.

 

 

Record breaking pantomime success!

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Some of our pantomime cast with producer Paul Hendy (left, second row) and Theatre Director Mark Everett (far right)

It’s official – this year’s pantomime, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, is a record breaker! During the course of it’s run, it was seen by 95,685 people, making it our most popular pantomime ever, with the theatre being 99% full across the whole of the run.

Our previous record was just over 90,000 ticket sold for Jack And The Beanstalk in 2013/14.

It wasn’t just ticket sales that broke records.  We also sold more ice creams than we ever have before – in fact, enough to fill 41 baths or 459 pairs of Wellington boots (please don’t ask us how we worked that out!).

You don’t sell that many tickets for a production that’s anything less than brilliant, and this year’s pantomime wowed audiences and critics alike. Reviewing the show for The Stage, Susan Elkin gave the production five stars (the first time she’s ever awarded this to a panto in 20 years of reviewing them) and said it was, “Excellent in every way”, adding  “Everything about this show glitters with quality.”.

Highlights of the production included our EastEnders star Rita Simons (playing the Wicked Queen) showing off her brilliant singing voice with a rendition of Sweet Child O’Mine, a new version of our ghost gag bench featuring some scary 3D ghosts and spiders, and a death-(or at least serious injury) defying roller skating scene. Plus of course the usual comic brilliance from Phil Gallagher, Lloyd Hollett and our very own pantomime dame Ben Roddy.

Snow White was produced by our regular partners Evolution, led by husband and wife team Paul Hendy and Emily Wood. Paul was also responsible for writing and directing the production (so if any of the puns made you groan, he’s the one to blame). We’d like to say a big thank you to the whole Evolution team, and the cast and crew, for putting on such a fabulous show, along with our own Marlowe Theatre staff team who were responsible for the warm welcome you received when visiting.  Most of all we’d like to thank our wonderful audiences for giving the show such a great reception.

We know that some of our audiences were unable to get tickets due to high demand, but never fear, our pantomime will return next year with a production of Dick Whittington, the original great British pantomime. This will be produced by the same team behind this year’s extravaganza and it will once again feature the fabulous Ben Roddy, along with an exciting cast that we’ll be announcing in the summer. You can buy your tickets now from our Box Office – it’s never too early to start preparing for Christmas.

 

A question of deception

Our spring season includes a double bill of plays by Alan Bennett, the much loved writer of such classic plays as Talking Heads, History Boys and The Lady In The Van.

Single Spies, a double bill of Bennett’s highly acclaimed plays An Englishman Abroad and A Question Of Attribution, promises a night of gripping theatre that delves into the murky story of the Cambridge Spy Ring and two of its most famous conspirators.


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Blame James Bond – or at least his creator Ian Fleming – but the British have long had a fascination with spies and espionage. Another great British fascination, we are often told, is with class. So it makes sense that some of the best-loved works by Alan Bennett, a playwright with a unique gift for capturing the nuances of British life, grew out of a story which contains elements of both: that of the Cambridge Five.

In terms of novels about spies, the Cambridge Five story is actually much closer to the world of John Le Carre than Ian Fleming. The five were mainly upper class young men, all of whom were recruited as Soviet spies while at Cambridge University in the 1930s. The men were Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, Kim Philby, Donald Maclean and – probably – John Cairncross. He was identified as the ‘fifth man’ in the group by KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky, but other names have been put forward, and it is possible that the group was larger than five.

Bennett himself said of the group, “I liked the notion of the Cambridge spies betraying their class; I liked them two-timing it. It’s something I can’t resolve in my mind; I resolve it by writing about it.”

All of the group went on to hold influential positions in the British establishment, mainly within the Foreign Office or MI6. Blunt – the oldest of the group – became a professor of art history, and Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures.

Single Spies focusses on two members of the Cambridge Five, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt; their stories told in – An Englishman Abroad  originally a TV play for the BBC, and A Question Of Attribution, which premiered at The National Theatre in 1988, alongside the stage version of An Englishman Abroad.

The first play deals with Guy Burgess’ life in Moscow after his defection to the Soviet Union alongside Donald Maclean in 1951. It’s based on the true story of a meeting between an actress, Coral Browne, and Burgess himself, in 1958. Browne was in Moscow playing Gertrude in a touring production of Hamlet.

The second play of the double-bill is A Question Of Attribution, which centres around Anthony Blunt, and his role as Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures – the personal art advisor to her Majesty. It was this job that allowed Bennett to write one of his most famous scenes, in which the Queen herself questions Blunt over the question of fakes in art. One of the sub-texts in the play is the extent to which the Queen is aware that Blunt is a former Soviet agent. After she has left, an assistant asks Blunt what they were talking about. He replies, “I was talking about art. I’m not sure that she was.”

Blunt was eventually publicly exposed as a Soviet agent in 1979 (he had confessed to the government and intelligence services in 1964), and stripped of his knighthood shortly afterwards, although he was never prosecuted, and remained in England until his death in 1983.

Burgess died in Moscow in 1963, aged just 52, after several years of alcohol dependance. Unlike Maclean, his fellow defector, who became a respected Soviet citizen, Burgess never adapted to life in the USSR. He remained, always, an Englishman abroad, refusing to learn Russian, and ordering his suits from a tailor in Savile Row. No wonder, perhaps, that he captured Bennett’s imagination.

Single Spies stars Nicholas Farrell (The Iron Lady), Belinda Lang (2point4 Children) and David Robb (Downton Abbey, Wolf Hall). It will be with us at The Marlowe Theatre from Tuesday 8 to Saturday 12 March.

The Mystery Of Glenn Miller

A new musical, The Glenn Miller Story starring the ever-popular Tommy Steele, will be visiting The Marlowe Theatre next week. Celebrating the life of this legendary bandleader, the production is already proving to be one of the most popular shows in our new season.

 With the show telling the story of Glenn Miller’s remarkable life, we take a look at one of the most enduring mysteries of the Second World War – the disappearance of the world’s most famous big band leader.

 Glenn Miller was probably the biggest music star of his day. An immensely successful band leader and composer, he was responsible for hits like In The Mood, Chattanooga Choo Choo and Moonlight Serenade, and was the most popular recording artist in the world from 1939 to 1943. He died – it is presumed – in 1944, aged just 40, when the plane he was flying in disappeared over the English Channel, as he flew to entertain American troops in France.

 At the time of his death, Miller was the leader of the United States Army Air Forces Band and held the rank of major. Understandably preoccupied, the American high command did not order an inquiry into the tragedy – they assumed that the plane had crashed due to bad weather.

 But that explanation did not satisfy many of Miller’s fans. Wild rumours and theories began to circulate – that the high command had believed Miller to be a German agent, so had assassinated him, that he had been shot down by the Germans, and was now a prisoner, that he had made it to France and been killed in a brawl in a Paris brothel, and many other wilder conspiracy theories were put forward. The fact that the plane which was carrying Miller had apparently filed no flight plan only added to the speculation.

 One of the theories came from Miller’s younger brother. Herb Miller claimed in 1983 that while his brother had taken off as recorded, the plane had in fact taken him to a military hospital, where he died a few hours later. Herb said he had made up the plane crash story, because he wanted his brother to have died a hero, not ‘in a lousy bed’. The other two men in the plane had been killed fighting the Germans. There is some evidence that Glenn Miller was ill in the months before he died – witnesses and his own letters mention rapid weight loss – military authorities have never given any credence to the younger Miller’s story.

 Another, perhaps more likely explanation was suggested by a former RAF navigator during the 1980s. He was part of the crew of a Lancaster bomber returning from an abortive mission over Germany on the fateful night Miller disappeared. The crew jettisoned their unused bombs over the Channel before landing – the crew man says another member of the crew reported seeing a small plane – possibly the single-engined Norseman Miller was travelling in – crash into the sea after being hit by the shock wave from the explosion from the jettisoned bomb. The revelations led to an investigation by the RAF, but 40 years after the events, they drew no definite conclusion. The Lancaster and the Norseman might have crossed in flight – but they could easily have been miles apart.

 It is testament to the enduring popularity of Glenn Miller’s music that an explanation for his disappearance is still being sought. In 2014, another theory was suggested by a researcher working at the Glenn Miller Archive at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He claims that military documents suggest that the type of Norseman plane that Miller was flying in, had a problem with fuel lines freezing. The plane was likely to be flying low because of fuel visibility, meaning that if the lines froze, the pilot would have just 8 seconds before the plane hit the water. In other words, the true explanation for Miller’s death is probably exactly what the military said it was, back in the year of his death.

 Whilst the mystery of his disappearance may never be solved, what is certain is that his music will live on and we look forward to celebrating it in The Glenn Miller Story.

 

The Marlowe Theatre Staff Picks 2016

We’ve got lots of great things coming your way in 2016 – we asked a few of our staff members to tell us what they are most excited about.


 

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The Marlowe Theatre Staff Team

Paul Turner, Finance Manager

“I can’t wait to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It was my favourite film as a child and the original story was written by Ian Fleming, who created James Bond – another obsession of mine. I’m also looking forward to seeing Into The Hoods, as I really enjoyed Some Like It Hip Hop in our first season in this building. I’ll also definitely be seeing Thriller Live! again.”

Adam Wood, Studio Manager

“I’m looking forward to Fake It Til You Make It. It sold out in Edinburgh, the reviews are amazing, and I’ve wanted to get Bryony Kimmings here for a while. Folie à Deux is an amazing blend of beautiful singing, incredible instrumentation, and an impressive lightshow from one of the country’s most exciting new opera companies. I saw it at Spitalfields Music Festival and I cannot wait to see it again.”

Joseph Janman, Box Office Supervisor

“I’m looking forward to Single Spies – I’ve seen a couple of Alan Bennett’s plays previous and they’ve always been cracking. Also looking forward to The Sound Of Music. It was the first musical I saw in the West End and I’m looking forward to seeing it again here!”

John Baker, Head Of Marketing

“I really love the National Theatre’s production of An Inspector Calls. I saw it in the 1990s and it will be great to see it again. It’s one of the most excitingly staged productions I’ve ever seen. I’m also looking forward to the return of Vamos, the mask theatre company, with their new production The Best Thing.

Amita Sharma, Box Office Assistant

“I am looking forward to ETO bringing us Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride because it will be a new opera for me. I’m also really looking forward to The James Plays – a whole day of drama. Wonderful!”

Kate Evans, Marketing Publications Officer

“Seeing The Lady In The Van at the cinema reminded me just how brilliant Alan Bennett is, so I’m really looking forward to Single Spies in March. I’ve also already booked my tickets for Backstage In Biscuit Land in The Marlowe Studio – it sounds like an unusual but very funny show.”

Sam Scott, Development Manager

“I can’t wait to see what Pixie Lott brings to the iconic role of Holly Golighty in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. I’m also looking forward to Into The Hoods, as I love street dance and hip hop.”

Paul Ainsworth, Learning And Participation Officer

“I’m really excited about The James Plays. Event theatre in Canterbury – I can’t wait! Folie à Deux in the studio will be a fantastic piece of contemporary opera. In terms of my day job, I’m working with The Marlowe Youth Theatre on a play called Blackout, which is part of National Theatre Connections. I think they’re going to do a great job.”

Sophie Shears, Arts Marketing Trainee

“I’ve seen Max and Ivan three times before at the Edinburgh Festival, and I can’t wait to see their new show The End in The Marlowe Studio. I know all the songs in Hairspray, so I’m looking forward to that too.”

Joanne Pearson, Fundraising Development Support Officer

“Having seen them play once before, I’m looking forward to The Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain. Give them a try.”