The Rights Of Others

_O3A2026x_FINALPP1b_landscapeSoon over 240 participants will take over our theatre to perform our most epic community production yet: The Rights Of Others.

Exploring rights and freedoms, the production’s participants range from 2-76 years, with a real variety of perspectives at play. Working not just with The Marlowe’s participants but a range of partners including Fine Art students at Canterbury Christ Church University, stage managers from the University Of Kent, and a Kosovan film group; this is a production with community at its heart.

Those of you that were here for last year’s inaugural community production The Garden Of England will recall how joyous and impressive the event was – combining an outdoor promenade performance, changing the atmosphere of the whole area, with a gripping new play in our Studio. Director of The Rights Of Others and Head Of Creative Projects Andrew Dawson tells us more about the ideas behind the project.

This year Canterbury’s community production, The Rights of Others, is an exploration of the epic struggle for justice, rights and freedom over the last 800 years. It celebrates the greatest legal precedent in history stated in the Magna Carta of 1215: “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

Yet it has proved a winding and treacherous path where progress is in no way guaranteed and often remains in jeopardy. Last year, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, called for a Magna Carta for the internet age where we face new frontiers in protecting the rights of individuals and disparate groups. It seeks to prompt urgent questions of our time and pre-empt the challenges to come.

We hope that this project enables people to explore the meaning of justice and freedom, and provokes constructive debate through both process and performance in our participants and our audience. The process has produced vigorous discussion in rehearsals amongst participants which we hope has informed a deeper understanding of their own rights and freedoms, as well as those less fortunate, while bringing us closer together through our collective endeavour.

We want to encourage understanding of our place within the bigger arcs of history locally, nationally and globally and in relation to the bigger ideas which grew out of that document sealed at Runnymede 800 years ago. This project has enabled us to connect with many members of our community with clear voices emerging from Canterbury’s universities as well as from international partners who have helped to place the project within a wider perspective.

It is an extreme privilege to engage with such a diverse group of people. We hope the project serves to foster confidence and opportunity for individuals to thrive as artists and performers, and also importantly as engaged citizens. The life of The Marlowe Theatre and its creative vision grows out of these connections and invites more voices to feel emboldened to join in with these vital conversations.

The Rights Of Others is performed in and around The Marlowe Theatre from Wednesday 8 – Saturday 11 July, a culmination of our creative classes throughout the year.

The production has been developed with support from The Kobler Trust, Furley Page Solicitors & The Marlowe Theatre Development Trust.

Glyndebourne: What’s it all about?

Don Pasquale. Photo by Bill Cooper

Don Pasquale. Photo by Bill Cooper

Ah, Glyndebourne…The very mention of the name makes opera-lovers go all misty eyed, but for the uninitiated, what exactly is it?

Well, Glyndebourne itself is a country house in Sussex. Its involvement with opera began in 1934 when the house’s then owner, John Christie, and his opera singer wife Audrey Mildmay decided to hold an opera festival in their own home. Since then, the Festival has developed hugely – not least with the opening of a new purpose built opera house seating 1200, which opened in 1994.

However, the Festival still retains many of its traditions, with many audience members choosing to dress up and have picnics in the grounds as part of their visit. The Festival – which runs from May to August every year – also still remains very much a family affair. Its current Executive Chairman is John Christie’s grandson Gus. And of course, Glyndebourne retains its reputation for producing world-class opera productions.

But what on earth, you may well be asking at this point, does this have to do with The Marlowe and Canterbury? The other half of Glyndebourne is the Glyndebourne tour, which takes productions direct from the famous festival and tours them around the country every autumn. We at The Marlowe are very proud to be a regular venue for the Glyndebourne tour ever since the opening of our new building in 2011.

Our relationship with Glyndebourne actually dates back to the days when our current theatre was still a twinkle in Theatre Director Mark Everett’s eye.

“We had been using Glyndebourne as an example of the scale and quality of the productions the new theatre could stage while we were still open in the old building,” Mark recalls. Two senior members of the Glyndebourne team even visited the site of the new theatre during construction, and pronounced that it would be possible to bring their productions to Canterbury.

“I knew it would be – and is – an immensely happy relationship. Glyndebourne love coming to The Marlowe and we love having them. Many of the artistes have said it is their favourite auditorium to perform in, because of its superb acoustics and sightlines,” says Mark.

The Glyndebourne Tour 2015 comes to The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, from Tuesday 3 – Saturday 7 November, with productions of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Handel’s Saul.

Remembering Ron

Ron Moody as Fagin in Oliver! at The Marlowe Theatre.

We at The Marlowe Theatre are saddened to learn of the death of actor Ron Moody at the age of 91.

Ron had a lengthy career as an actor in both theatre and on screen, but was best known for playing Fagin in the 1968 film Oliver! for which he earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination.

Ron is remembered fondly by many people here at The Marlowe – he reprised his famous role as Fagin in a community production of Oliver! in the early 2000s. He also performed as part of the Gala Evening which closed our old theatre building in March 2009.

He is survived by his widow Therese and six children. Today, Therese said, “He brought joy to his family and to the hearts of many and will be greatly missed. He was singing until the end.”

Our Theatre Director Mark Everett has fond memories of the actor: “I can remember the buzz when it was confirmed that Ron was going to appear in our community production: Ron Moody reprising his iconic film role on our stage! I know the amateur actors really appreciated working with him as much as the audiences appreciated seeing him.

“Of course, it was equally as delightful – and somehow more moving – when Ron agreed to take part in our closing gala performance. It was one of the real highlights of the evening for me, and for many other people.”

Our thoughts are with Ron’s family at this time.

Brian Conley on Barnum

Brian Conley as Barnum. Photo by Johan Persson.

Brian Conley as Barnum. Photo by Johan Persson.

Brian Conley has spent a lot of his distinguished career playing Americans, even if there’s no mistaking the Englishman’s distinctively husky voice during an expansive interview one recent afternoon.

A native Londoner, Conley was a 1996 Olivier nominee for his performance as singer Al Jolson in the musical Jolson. He has also appeared on stage as Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man, Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, and most recently Fagin in Cameron Mackintosh’s national tour of Oliver!.

Conley is touring the UK playing the title role in Barnum, the revival of the much-loved Cy Coleman-scored musical about Phineas T Barnum, the circus entertainer extraordinaire who was famously known as America’s greatest showman. Matt Wolf, London theatre critic for The International New York Times, caught up with Conley to talk tightrope-walking, travelling the country, and bringing his unique savvy to this particularly melodic slice of quintessential show biz life.

Congratulations on landing the role of PT Barnum, the legendary showman who teamed up with JA Bailey to create Barnum and Bailey’s Circus – the popular entertainment known in its day as the Greatest Show on Earth. Did you already know this 1980 Broadway musical when the offer came your way?

Yes, I saw Michael Crawford do it originally in the West End. It’s a show that I’ve always admired, just as I’ve admired everyone that has taken on the role. So now to be asked by [producer] Cameron Mackintosh to have a go myself is a wonderful honour. I saw this production in Chichester [in 2013] and just loved it.

The physical demands are quite intense, to put it mildly.

Yes, they are! But I started training before Christmas last year, I was at circus school twice a week and then we were had five weeks of rehearsals. It’s certainly physically demanding but no more so than doing panto twice a day. Sure, I have moments of thinking I’m too old for this, but then I think to myself – it’s as if I’ve been called up by the England manager of the theatre world in Sir Cameron Mackintosh so I can’t let him down. And the wonderful thing with Cameron is that there’s absolutely no skimping; you know everything will be done to the highest degree.

Sure, but you’ve got to walk a tightrope, among other challenges that you don’t find in most stage musicals [laughs]!

It’s one of the obstacles the show poses and I did find myself thinking initially when I was on the tightrope, “What am I doing here?” I’m not afraid of hard work, whether in this or any show. I do eventually cross the wire, not always on the first attempt but that’s what makes it so exciting, the whole audience appreciate that I’m not a professional tight rope walker.

Brian as Barnum, mid tight rope walk. Photo by Johan Persson.

Brian as Barnum, mid tight rope walk. Photo by Johan Persson.

And you’ve no fear of heights?

No. I broke my finger doing the tightrope a few months ago now and that was when I was all of one foot off the ground. I also sprained my ankle pretty badly on the second day of rehearsals when I was on the wire at its full height which is eight foot of the ground. I think you can say that I’m afraid of falling but not afraid of heights [laughs].

PT Barnum exists on a spectrum of comparable stage roles for you over the years.

Very much so. I played Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man in Chichester in 2008 and he’s a similar type of con man character, and Al Jolson in his own way was a hugely driven man whom you grew to love. In each case, you’ve got to play these roles without malice but with energy and charm.

What I’m hoping I bring to Barnum is a real contact with the audience where we play off and talk to them and keep them engaged. It’s important whatever you’re performing to be visually interesting so you don’t just stand there and waffle on [laughs].

You don’t seem to balk at playing Americans.

I don’t, really. As a kid I used to listen to American songs as I sang, and I always feel as if the energy of these great American roles is not a million miles away from who I am – or as if it is me, but with an American accent.

I remember when I played Al Jolson in Canada, I was really worried that the audience would see through me and realise that I wasn’t American, but they believed I was. Before Jolson I did Me And My Girl, playing a cheeky Cockney lad, and after Jolson was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and then Edna in Hairspray with a voice like that [Conley drops his voice several octaves]: It can take me a little while to get the sound of the character, but once I find that, then I’m there.

Circus antics in Barnum. Photo by  Johan Persson.

Circus antics in Barnum. Photo by Johan Persson.

Nor is this production of Barnum a mere carbon copy of what has been done before.

Not at all. For one thing, we’ve restored So Little Time, which was dropped originally from the show. When I heard it, I said, “We’ve got to put it in.” [The number] is about how much he loves his wife Charity, or Chairy [played on tour by Mamma Mia!, Joseph and Carrie star Linzi Hateley], and about how much he regrets never saying “I love you” as much as he should have and cuddled her more. It’s the most beautiful song.

What about the vocal requirements of the part?

Well, don’t forget that Jolson was pretty full-on: that one had 26 songs, though some to be fair were quite short; they were never huge arias. But all you can do with a role like this is trust and hope that your muscle memory kicks in and that you settle into a routine. It helps, I think, that I don’t drink anymore – I packed that in 10 years ago –and that I know how important it is to rest. That said, I’m not afraid of putting the time in to get results.

You clearly have a strong sense of the stage as your natural habitat.

Very much so. When I’m on stage I feel very much as if that is where I belong. My commitment to taking an audience somewhere is important to me: being live on stage feels like home to me, and I always say that I was born to do it.

It’s lovely, too, that you’re so fond of touring.

The thing is, there’s definitely a buzz when you’re out of London. The audiences on tour are so warm and genuinely enjoy going to their local theatre. The audiences on the tour have so far been phenomenal!

Are there other musical theatre roles on your bucket list?

I would love to play Miss Trunchbull in Matilda: that’s a part I would be very interested in after this, but beyond that, who knows? I don’t have a huge game plan, and I’m very fortunate to be in the position that I can do what I want to do as opposed to what I have to do.

I suppose Barnum sets the bar very high – literally so, given the heights you have to scale each performance.

[Laughs] Yes, and I intend to walk that bar! Anything after this will be a piece of cake.

Barnum comes to The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, from Tuesday 23 June – Saturday 4 July as part of a national tour.


Oklahoma! An Interview With Gary Wilmot & Belinda Lang

The cast of the National tour of OKLAHOMA! credit Pamela Raith (2)

The cast of Oklahoma! Image by Pamela Raith.

Starring in a new production of one of the greatest classic American musicals of all time, actors Belinda Lang and Gary Wilmot are happily saddled with a success

It’s a brand new production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Pulitzer Prize-winning show, but when he was first invited to join the cast of Oklahoma! seasoned musical theatre star Gary Wilmot was somehow still undecided. So what made up his mind?

“I discovered that Rachel [Kavanaugh] was directing,” says Gary, whose credits include a swathe of West End musicals, including Me And My Girl, The Pyjama Game, Oliver! and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. “It’s a show that has been done so many times but I knew Rachel would find something special in it. I love working with her,” he says, warmly.

Actress Belinda Lang, perhaps best known for the hit sitcom 2 Point 4 Children, plays Aunt Eller in Oklahoma! She too rates Ms Kavanaugh’s ability to put together a super-talented cast and create an outstanding show.

“I have been astonished by the cast!” she exclaims. “They’re an extraordinarily gifted group who are at the top of their game – to see people that skilled at singing, acting, dancing and comedy is astonishing. They are athletes!”

Presented by Music & Lyrics Limited and Royal & Derngate Northampton, the show has been touring towns and cities up and down the country, and in Ireland until August. And if the reaction thus far is anything to go by, audiences will be charmed to within an inch of their lives.

But it’s a collaborative effort and Belinda and Gary are as impressed with the rest of the creative team as they are with their director and fellow cast members.

“You could say that they are the new kids on the block. Stephen Ridley our Musical Director gives such precise and inspiring instruction and Drew McOnie our choreographer has created one of the most exciting pieces of choreography I have ever seen. I virtually cried at the end of the dream ballet, and that was just in the rehearsal room!” grins Gary.

Belinda is equally enthralled. “Drew is going to be hugely famous, I just know it, and I’ll be able to say ‘Ooh, I worked with him!’ His imagination and storytelling is extraordinary,” she marvels.

With music by Richard Rodgers and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Oklahoma! was based on the Lynn Riggs play Green Grow The Lilacs and was the first musical written by the duo. Including the songs Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’I Cain’t Say No, The Surrey With The Fringe On Top, Kansas City, People Will Say We’re in Love and of course the title song, it was originally produced on Broadway in 1943, with the Academy Award-winning film following in 1955.

Gary Wilmot starring as Ali Hakin. Image by Pamela Raith.

Gary Wilmot starring as Ali Hakin. Image by Pamela Raith.

Set in the Oklahoma territory in the early 1900s, the musical story tells of two sets of star-crossed lovers. Cowboy Curly loves Aunt Eller’s niece Laurey, but Curly’s rival is the mysterious and dangerous hired hand Jud Fry. Meanwhile, Ado Annie is torn between cowboy Will and peddler Ali Hakim – the role that Gary is thoroughly enjoying playing.

“He’s a character that comes in and out, so I knew I’d have my work cut out for me – I’d have to make an impact. Mind you, you’d have to go some to steal the show away from the talent we’ve got in this cast.

“Ali goes from town to town plying his wares, mostly for ladies, selling kitchen equipment, perfumes and frillies from Paris. He’s a charmer; he can charm the birds from the trees, and it’s not until a few days after he’s gone that people realise that they have been conned,” says Gary, who did a little digging and discovered that the role had been played many different ways previously.

“Rachel and I concluded that he was perhaps Persian but had grown up in New York. He uses the Persian element to make everyone think of him as this romantic and exotic figure.” An exotic rogue then? “Exactly!”

Belinda Lang as Aunt Eller in Oklahoma!. Image by Pamela Raith.

Belinda Lang as Aunt Eller. Image by Pamela Raith.

As for Belinda, she’s relishing her role as Aunt Eller. “She’s the matriarch of the piece. She’s the aunt of the leading lady and the go-to person in the community who keeps everything in check. She’s a bit of a pioneer and very salt of the earth. She’s a hard-working old boot!”

And not even schlepping up and down the country every week until August can take the shine of this production for Gary and Belinda, who are both clearly delighted to be part of such a success.

“Physically it’s not the most tiring role I have ever done so I am actually enjoying sitting in the dressing room and watching everyone else working,” jokes Gary.

“At the end of each performance you can feel that the audience is desperate to sing along with Oklahoma!” adds Belinda. “It’s a wonderful feeling and you think, well, this is worth doing!”

Words: Vicky Edwards

Oklahoma! comes to The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, from Tuesday 16 – Saturday 20 June.

Are you ready for this jelly?

Private View Plunge Theatre

Making their way to The Marlowe Studio soon are Plunge Theatre with Private View. This powerful feminist comedy explores the rituals we go through in a futile pursuit of perfection, and how women (and men) are judged. It’s had great responses at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and in London, and has been recomended by both The Guardian and Elle Magazine. Now, the Plunge girls come to Canterbury. So, are you ready for this jelly?

When people ask us why we made Private View they get more than they bargained for, because, at this stage we know it better than we know ourselves.

Private View is about our predicament as three young women, do I wax or do I shave? Am I sexy? Jesus, where does that go?

Underneath the humour of the piece bubbles the raging discomfort we, and women everywhere, are forced to feel every day. From patronising protein ads to the glances your pencil skirt gets you on the way to that meeting – it all boils down to one specific notion: that women are objects, that their only value is in their beauty and that if you’re not quite beautiful enough, you’d better get to work on yourself.

These ideals have permeated our society for long enough. Young people, both male and female, are born porous to this information, it’s damaging them and it’s damaging us. Since 2008 the number of eating disorder patients has increased by 7% every year. Do we really want to be a part of the generation who sat back and let this happen?

At Plunge we don’t know whether or not to laugh or cry most of the time and therefore we present to you Private View: part love song part hate mail, part comedy part tragedy, and all heart.

In the two years we’ve been working on this show the scale and honesty of our audience’s responses has been as unsettling as it has inspiring. Every G&T washed down with tears has been chased by a meeting where we stand excitedly over A3 paper, wielding pink marker pens, so excited we can’t cope, actually just shouting ‘WHAT ELSE CAN WE DO? WORKSHOPS!? PANEL DISCUSSIONS!? LETS GO DIRECTLY TO THE SCHOOLS.’

So, we’re coming for you now. For one night only. We’ll be holding a discussion after the show (we LOVE to talk) and we’ll be planning future workshops too. We’re demanding a space in your theatre, school, heart and soul – because we got bored in the kitchen and we don’t have the right figures for Vogue.

So join us, we’re not here to accept society, we’re here to question it, preferably via chocolate cake and Beyonce…

Private View is at The Marlowe Studio, Canterbury, on Friday 22 May.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time: From Page To Stage

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. Photo by Brinkhoff Mögenberg.

Production photo by Brinkhoff Mögenberg.

In 2003 Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time hit bookshops. Telling the mystery story of the extraordinary Christopher, brilliant at maths but with a difficulty in the day-to-day, it gripped the public’s imagination. Some years down the line, Haddon approached Simon Stephens to adapt the novel for the stage, bringing to life Christopher’s world.

The show went on to become a massive success in the West End and on Broadway. With seven Olivier Awards and, recently announced, six Tony Award nominations (with the winners announced in June), the production now makes it way to Canterbury on a UK tour.

We found out how the novel was adapted, with writer Simon Stephens.

What inspired you to adapt The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time for the stage?

Mark Haddon asked me to write it for him. I was immensely flattered. I loved the book for years and was inspired by it in earlier plays before I’d even met him.  I was daunted by the book’s celebrity and fascinated by the challenge of how one dramatises a novel. I very much wanted to find out what Christopher’s parents looked like and thought a good way of doing that would be to dramatise them.

Mark once described his novel as un-stageable. So, how did you go about the adaptation process?

The innate dramatic charge of his dialogue means his work is eminently stageable.  I spent some time trying to separate the narrative from the prose of the book. I worked through it listing all the events that happened in the story. I then spent some time transcribing the direct speech. I had the hunch that in the direct speech there would be clues as to the book’s dramatic heart.

It was through this that I came up with the idea of using Siobhan as a narrator. She is one of only three people who read Christopher’s book in the novel and her view point is so much like the novel’s readers. I also think that the idea of a favourite teacher is one many people can relate to. She’s a peripheral character in the novel but central to the play.

What do you think the story is about and why does it appeal to readers and theatre-goers?

I think it’s a story about family. I think it’s about what it’s like to raise a child or be raised; to parent or have parents. I think it’s a celebration of the capacity for bravery in the most unlikely of environments. Stories of bravery resonate. Stories of families resonate.

How much did you and Mark collaborate on the stage adaptation?

Hardly at all! He told me I could do what I wanted. He was supportive and I also kept a beautiful distance. He read early drafts and was very encouraging.

Can you tell us something about the staging and why you think Marianne Elliott was the right choice to direct the play.

Marianne has an innate sense of democracy. She combines a fearlessly and ferociously theatrical imagination with a real concern for her audience. She and designer Bunny Christie and the rest of the artistic team committed completely to trying to get into Christopher’s head and dramatise his world from within. That’s what watching the play feels like.  It feels like you’re in Christopher’s brain.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time Canterbury

Production photo by Brinkhoff Mögenberg.

How involved were you with the creative process?

I was at a fair few rehearsals – mainly to offer occasional re-writes and a very few insights into the progression.  But Marianne and her team were so robust that they didn’t need me too much. I mainly turned up late and tried to make everybody a cup of tea!

How do you feel about the show touring around the UK and Ireland?  Are you excited about the fact that the show is opening at the Lowry in Salford?

The whole notion of the tour seems to resonate beautifully with Christopher and his sense of adventure and bravery in the novel.  The book is a road story and we’re hitting the road. That it might start at the Lowry in Salford, so near where I was born and raised means the world. I’m taking sixteen members of my family, including my 94-year-old Grandma to opening night. In fact the show is starting at the Lowry so she can see it!

How did you feel about the success of the show – from the Cottesloe – the National Theatre’s smallest space, to the West End, and on to Broadway..

Well I‘m proud of it. And proud that we never compromised anything to have it succeed. We never tried to succeed with the play: we just tried to tell the story as well as we could. I think that bravery and sense of experiment comes through in the performance and the idea that bravery like that appeals to people is inspiring.

What other projects are you working on at the moment?

I’ve four new plays opening this year. Carmen Disruption at the Almeida in London; Song from Farway by Toneelgroep Amsterdam opens in Sao Paulo; a play called Heisenberg opens in New York and then a version of Ödön von Horváth’s Karsimir and Karoline, that I’ve called The Funfair will open the new Home Theatre in Manchester.

I understand you were a teacher.  How did that inform your writing and how did you make the leap from teaching to become a playwright?

I think both writing and teaching operate from the same optimism. The writer and the teacher work from the assumption that they can make the world better and they can change people. I loved teaching and the kids I taught continue to live with me in my imagination and inspire my work.

I never stopped writing while I was teaching and after a while (in January 2000) Ian Rickson at the Royal Court Theare read my plays and asked me to be their Resident Dramatist. I still see some of the teachers I worked with and occasionally some of the kids I taught.

Who was your favourite teacher and how have they influenced your life?

A teacher called James Siddely taught me A Level General Studies. He was the first person I ever told that I wanted to be a writer and he encouraged me without reservation. Late in his life he came to see several of my plays in Manchester and we would have lunch. That was very special. He remains an inspiring presence in my work.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time comes to Canterbury’s The Marlowe Theatre from Tuesday 12 – Saturday 23 May.