Sea stories


We speak to Lizzie Nunnery, the writer of Narvik, a new play with music, set during the Second World War. Inspired by tales of Naval veterans, including Nunnery’s own grandfather, the play tells the tale of a man and a woman pulled together and torn apart by the war.

How does Narvik – a play about the Second World War – still resonate with you?
The starting point for it was me and Hannah, the director, talking about my Grandfather’s stories of being in the Navy in World War Two. For years and years and years he never talked about the war. Then maybe in the last 10 years of his life he started to talk about it, every now and again, just out of the blue he would tell you something incredible or something quite horrific that had been put away for decades. It was almost like at that stage of his life he felt the need to repeat these things and make sure that they were known. Some of them were funny stories, good times he had but I think the naval experience he had was very particular, especially for those people who were in the Artic, and it’s a version of World War Two that doesn’t necessarily gets looked at all that often. It’s quite different from the typical stereotypical World War Two story that we think about – war films about that period, we think a lot about the RAF for example.

The fact that there were all these boys freezing to death in the Artic who came from ordinary working class backgrounds and suddenly they were out there, sliding round on frozen vomit on the decks and enduring these incredible conditions. They also endured this really strange situation of sometimes months of nothing happening, this endless fear that something catastrophic could happen at anytime, which I suppose is common to a lot of war situations, maybe all war situations, but there’s something about those mines buried under the sea and U-boats that could just slide under them that I think created a particularly tense and fraught experience.

We started with my Grandfather’s stories and me and Hannah read an awful lot of other real accounts and gathered a lot of other information together so what we’ve ended up with is totally fictionalized, but draws on real events in these other men’s lives, all these real experiences so hopefully it will be quite authentic and for me, I think the sea is such a great metaphor and I love the idea of being able to write about memory and about conflict using that metaphor, actually I think that nearly all theatre that works is about the difficulty of human connection and there’s always that lovely metaphor in theatre that there’s gap between the audience and the stage or the audience and the performer and we’re trying to bridge that gap and it therefore when it works, it reflects what we’re trying to do all our lives – trying to reach out and connect with each other and really often failing. So I kind of wanted to use the metaphor of the sea in that way. It’s about this man Jim who falls in love but who also has this separate friendship during the war and how those relationships were distorted, destroyed, how difficult those relationships became under the pressure of war and the sea is this image that represents that gap.”

How does the story fit with the music?
“I think the trick with story structure is that you pick the most dramatic moments so you know that they’ve got hours of tension and boredom but you are not going to put that on the stage, you’re going to pick the times when things are happening. I wouldn’t like people to think that we’ve got lots of scenes with people sitting around, waiting for something to happen, we haven’t! Hopefully, that offstage tension and anxiety feeds into these explosive moments of drama when the character Jim does have to contend with his ship being attacked or when he is confronted with his lost love after the war.

We’ve hopefully focused on those explosive episodes and the music, the nice thing that we’ve hit upon is that the music operates as part of his memory and the whole play is told in a way through the filter of memory. We start with the central character, Jim, at night time. He’s 90 and falls over in his basement and then we move back into these key incidents in his life which he’s never resolved, he’s never confronted or understood.

We’re playing around with songs in all different kinds of ways, sometimes as I said before, two literal ways – what we found worked was that if each song was an echo from an old experience so there’s a song in there that his dad sung to him as a child or a song that his girlfriend in Norway, who is at the centre of the play, sang. Once you’ve planted these songs in a literal context you can take them up and transform them and do weird things with them. They become part of the soundtrack but we understand why they are there as they are part of the fabric of his memory and they won’t leave him alone so that’s why we keep hearing them.”

Narvik: The Marlowe Studio, Monday 13 February. Book here.

Going the Full Monty


We’ll soon be welcoming Sheffield’s finest into our theatre, with the return of The Full Monty, this time starring Gary Lucy. We hear from Simon Beaufoy, who wrote both the original screenplay and the stage adaptation.

In 1997, a British film about a group of unemployed steel workers became a surprise worldwide hit. No-one was more surprised by the success of The Full Monty than its screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, who’s since gone on to work on films like Slumdog Millionaire and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The Full Monty was his first screenplay: “It was strange and unexpected that it was such a success; a very odd but fantastic introduction to the film world.”

However, it’s fair to say that the idea behind the story – as presented to him by an Italian producer, didn’t exactly capture his imagination at first: “He came to me with an idea about a group of men hanging out in the gym together, which I didn’t think was terribly interesting. Then he suggested that it was an all-male strip thing, which again I didn’t think much of. But then I started to consider what might make British working class men do something like that. It became about unemployment and the fact that their pride had been taken away with their jobs and suddenly it got very interesting.”

From that point, it was plain sailing: “As a student, I had a holiday job cleaning machine tools in a factory and a lot of the characters are very familiar to me. I knew these men. I grew up in West Yorkshire where, when things got desperate, you joked about it because humour was all you had. It’s a very Northern thing but the worse things get, the better the jokes are. It’s a coping strategy. These blokes are in a bit of a desperate state and they are trying to understand the world emotionally. Everyone recognises the characters so well; men who would rather talk about anything than what they are feeling and who find expressing themselves incredibly difficult.”

The success of the film led eventually to a successful stage version the story, which was so successful it’s now touring the country again. But there were challenges for Simon in translating his story from screen to stage: “With film you can take your audience wherever you want to go in a twenty-fourth of a second; you can go anywhere, which when you’re making it is a nightmare but lovely when you’re watching it. Lee Hall who wrote Billy Elliot told me that the really difficult thing about theatre is how you get everyone on stage and off again. It’s true; getting the story told without the ease of cutting to a new location the way you can in film is a real challenge. But then the great luxury with theatre is that it is all about words; you boil everything down to get a lovely simplicity that focuses on the characters and their stories.”

And there are further advantages to stage over screen: “It should have been a play first really because by the end the audience is sitting in a seat about to watch a strip show, so you can literally take them with you. Although in the first draft they didn’t even take their clothes off – it was ridiculous! You can’t have 90 pages talking about taking their clothes off and then not do it!”

Simon’s hope is that anyone coming to see the play will have a “wonderful and uproarious evening”. We think there’s a pretty high chance of that!

The Full Monty: Monday 20 to Saturday 25 February. Book here.

Run The Beast Down: Meet The Team


Ben Aldridge as Charlie

With rehearsals now underway, we can bring you a bit more detail about some of the team of Run The Beast Down, our latest Made By The Marlowe production, which will premiere in The Marlowe Studio on Tuesday 24 January, prior to a transfer to London’s Finborough theatre.

The play tells the strange story of Charlie, a man on the edge who has recently lost his job. Suffering from insomnia, he then finds himself being haunted by an urban fox, as the story twists towards a neon-soaked showdown.

We’re very excited that the role of Charlie will be played by Ben Aldridge, who has most recently been seen in Our Girl on BBC 1 and BBC 3’s Fleabag. He’s previously appeared in The Devil’s Whore (Channel 4)  and Lark Rise To Candleford, among others. On stage, he’s worked at such prestigious venues as the Almeida and Shakespeare’s Globe.

On stage alongside Ben will be musician Chris Bartholomew. He’ll be live DJ-ing the play’s soundscape at every performance, providing a powerful musical backdrop to the action on stage. Chris is a multi-talented man, as not only does he work as a sound designer and composer, he’s also DJ’ed at clubs like Egg and Pacha London. As you may have guessed, music plays a huge part in Run The Beast Down, and will be a key part of the audience experience.

Featuring in the play’s soundscape will be the music of Canterbury-based ANoR, a DJ and music producing duo (real names Andy and Fraser) with over twenty years experience between them. Under different aliases they have had releases on labels such as Noir Music, Hotfingers and Savoir Faire Musique to name but a few. They are regulars at many of London’s hottest events including ABODE and have three releases on Larry Cadge’s Smiley Fingers Records.

Bringing all of these elements of Run The Beast Down together will be director Hannah Price.  Hannah is the co-founder (along with our co-producer Libby Brodie), of Theatre Uncut and is seen as being one of this country’s most exciting directors. She’s won – among other things – two Fringe First awards and the Spirit of the Fringe Award. She’s worked at the Donmar Warehouse, and recently directed Boa, starring Harriet Walter, at the Trafalgar Studios.

We hope you can join us for what promises to be a powerful theatrical experience, developed and premiered in our own city through ROAR!, our new writing programme.

Run The Beast Down: The Marlowe Studio Tuesday 24 to Saturday 28 January. Book here.

From Alan Partridge to Jane Austen


We talk to Felicity Montagu, who’s playing Mrs Bennett in the Regent’s Park Theatre’s adaptation of Pride And Prejudice, which will be at our theatre in late January.

What do you think people continue to be enthralled by this story?
I think it’s because it’s so human. Jane Austen writes very astutely about women and their situation, and whilst women are much more emancipated these days, many of the issues she covers still resonate; that society that she writes about was very tight but still the things that happen within the play are very relevant. They’re about emotions and about people not achieving happiness. I also think it’s very funny and very sad. It’s a very good comedy drama.

What’s your take on the character of Mrs Bennet and what do you most enjoy about playing her?
She’s a testy role and a very demanding one because she’s a very mercurial character. She changes very quickly on a sixpence. I like her self-righteousness and her ability to tantrum and to be almost childlike. The element of being a child in a rehearsal room is terribly exciting and I enjoy that; I enjoy the child in her.

Can you recall the first time you encountered the book?
I think it would have been when I was at school. It was on the school syllabus and I loved it. I love Jane Austen. She writes very astutely about human nature. She very cleverly extrapolates moments and dramatises them. She just pinpoints human nature very accurately. You could put some of her characters in different situations in this world now and they’d still have the same kind of emotions. She’s a great painter really. Like Dickens did, she paints the most wonderful characters. You go into an art gallery and you see these wonderful pictures and you imagine who these people were; she does the same thing with great skill

How does Simon Reade’s script bring the book alive for audiences?
It’s a terribly difficult thing to do but I think he’s done it very cleverly and you combine that with [director] Deborah Bruce, who’s got a visual eye and a great sense of reality in comedy – which is my favourite type of comedy. I don’t really like end-of-the-pier comedy, I love human nature, laughing and crying. I love to make an audience do that.

How is it working with Matthew Kelly, who plays Mr Bennet?
I worked with Matthew 30 years ago on his sketch show, and he’s really fantastic. It’s wonderful because I hadn’t seen him in all those years but walking in the door it was like I’d never stopped seeing him. He’s a great actor and a tremendous person, and I’m so pleased we’re going to be spending seven months getting to know each other again.

What are you most looking forward to about touring?
I haven’t toured before so it’s me being very daring. Well, I toured straight after drama college for a very short time, then my career took me to London and I was filming a lot so I’ve never done any rep. I wrote 100 letters after I left university, then after drama school, and I didn’t get one reply. My first break was at the Bush Theatre and I was terrified because of my faults and flaws – I hadn’t learnt anything at that point. It’s even worse now for young actors because the competition is much greater and there are far less opportunities in theatre to go and learn your trade. It’s very sad that we don’t seem to be able to generate more work for young people to go and learn. As for touring, my children said “You’ve got to do it, Mum, this is the time to do it”.

Do you have any pre- or post-show rituals?
Everything changes. Every different show you do the ritual changes. I like to keep myself on my toes. I like to pull myself up short and say “Am I going to have a bike ride today? Am I going to swim? Am I going to do this or that?” So I have rituals that I develop according to the character I’m playing, the show I’m doing and also where I am.

Which roles do you most get recognised for?
It’s quite complicated really. I said to my sister recently “I’m getting recognised a lot at the moment, why is that?” and she said “It’s stacking up – you’ve done 30 years on the box and radio and quite a few films now so it’s all stacking up”. In a shop the other day people recognised me from Bridget Jones but I did that I don’t know how many years ago, then there’s a run of people recognising me from Alan Partridge, then I don’t get recognised at all. It’s great. But I always get “I know you from somewhere, did we go to the same school?”

What have been your career highlights so far?
I’ve enjoyed all of it really, except for jobs where you’ve had to work really hard on the script. Obviously I adore working with Steve Coogan. I respect him hugely and I love working with him. He’s a great guy. He’s very fair and he’s tough. He’s like a sparrowhawk! I loved doing Doc Martin and I got a wonderful high doing Bridget Jones. It was marvellous working with such good actors.

Pride And Prejudice: Tuesday 31 january to Saturday 4 February. Book here.

Adapting a classic


How do you go about translating one of the best-known and best-loved works of English Literature for the stage? We find out from the team behind the highly-acclaimed Regent’s Park Theatre’s adaptation of Pride And Prejudice, which is visiting our theatre next year.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged,” that a great work of literature will be subjected to numerous adaptations – and Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice is no exception. Some of these adaptations bring with them almost as much baggage as the original novel – in particular the BBC’s 1995 version, adapted by Andrew Davies and starring Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, making an infamous appearance in a wet shirt.

All of which must make it harder to successfully stage a new version of the novel. As director Deborah Bruce says: “Pride And Prejudice is a famous book and audiences have a sense of ownership of it and strong ideas of who these characters are. The book is witty and wholehearted and romantic and a great deal happens – and the play is only two hours long! The action has to move fast and tell the story clearly. The production needs to carry the atmosphere of the book and depict the world of the play and keep the audience engaged with the characters’ journeys.”

The person who had to pack all of these famous characters – and the audiences’ expectations of them – into a two-hour play was adaptor Simon Reade. He says: “Although Pride And Prejudice is a story led by Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy, it is also populated by an entire world true unto itself. In my version there is an empathy with the parents, Mr and Mrs Bennet, which often surprises audiences. I have also tried to allow the women to speak with the stronger voices that Austen gives them; and I am pleased that there are more actresses required to mount this version than actors.”

His adaptation is described by Deborah Bruce as “wonderfully fluid”, but when dealing with a task like this, where on earth do you start. Simon says: “I start by writing out all the dialogue by hand, and turning some of the narration into dialogue. The reason being that working at the same speed as the original author, and crafting the work as they would have done, by hand more often than on a computer, makes you pay attention to the detail and nuance and diction. But before I have even got to that stage I will have been reading a novel when the penny drops that it is inherently dramatic and I have a gut feeling about how to adapt it.”

But there’s more to the creation of this, the “perfect Pride And Prejudice” (Daily Mail) than just the script, important though that is. In depicting a world of complex social structures, design, especially costume design, is hugely important. According to costume designer Tom Piper: “Clothes are very strong clues as to class and status, no matter what period you are in. In general more expensive fabrics such as silk tell a story of wealth, the choices of colour and pattern say a lot about the taste of a character. The biggest challenge in this production is to tell the difference between the country dance, where Elizabeth first meets Darcy, and the much grander ball at Bingleys. Some of the characters, especially Elizabeth, never leave the stage so we have to find a way to change her look very simply but make it appropriate for the social situation. So we have devised jackets and layers that can be removed or added on stage.”

Pride And Prejudice: Tuesday 31 January to Saturday 4 February. Book here.

Staff choices for 2017


Some of our staff team

We’ve got some great shows coming up in 2017. Here our staff tell us what they’re looking forward to.

Dorothee Kuepers, Front of House team

“I’m particularly looking forward to seeing La Cage aux Folles. I’m half French and have seen the original movie many times. John Partridge is awesome and I can’t wait to see what he brings to the role. I’m hoping to usher that show more than once!

I’m also looking forward to The Play That Goes Wrong. I love that kind of humour.”

Rhys Hughes, Box Office Supervisor

“I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the faces of my two boys when we come to see Mr Bloom’s Nursery in April. We’ve recently got our own allotment, and both of my Tiddlers have grand plans for what to grow and are looking forward to eating their home grown fresh food just like Mr Bloom and the Veggies – it will be wonderful to see him live.”

Janette Eyres, Front of House team

“I am really looking forward to seeing The Red Shoes ballet. The costumes look amazing and following in Matthew Bourne’s tradition of an artistic and beautiful production. I particularly enjoyed Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty so am looking forward to more of the same in 2017.”



The Red Shoes

Kimberley Sanders, Studio Manager

“I am really looking forward to seeing Gutted in The Marlowe Studio. This is a play written and produced by local artist, Sharon Byrne. It’s a black comedy set in a Dublin fish Factory in the 1980s and seeing how it’s developing is really exciting and I can’t wait to see all the great ideas come together. I’m also really looking forward to seeing Thrive, as it’s more of an immersive experience for the audience that I think is something a bit different for the Studio. For younger audiences, I’m looking forward to seeing Bad Guys by the Three Half Pints, which is coming to the studio at Easter and is offering the first relaxed performance in the studio – hopefully this is the first of many to come!”

Marissa Garbo, Programme Administrator

“I’m looking forward to The Addams Family. It’s got a great cast and is going to be a really fun show. The music is also very good and it will be a high quality show.”


The Addams Family

Sarah Munday, Press Officer

“Anything that features a “blistering Bowie soundtrack” is more than alright by me, and From Ibiza To The Norfolk Broads promises this, and so much more. In The Marlowe Studio one year and one month after the death of the great man, this story of a troubled teenager who turns to music to soothe his soul (and who hasn’t?) has wowed the critics and will, I’m sure, wow me.”

Carolyn Dobbie, Theatre Administrator

“For me it’s Mamma Mia! – I loved the film and the music will really get everyone feeling happy! I’m also looking forward to seeing The Full Monty, half clad beefcakes, what more can I say…

The Snowman will be beautiful … can’t wait to see how they do it and watch the children’s faces.

And I’m sure Sister Act will be another great feel-good show.”

Rebecca Startup-Waters, Marketing  Officer

“I am really looking forward to Pride And Prejudice. I have been a fan of the book for years and can’t wait to see what they are going to do with it, especially with such great reviews.  I can’t wait for The Red Shoes. I have been a fan of Matthew Bourne for years and love when he does a new piece and although the film is heart-breaking it is incredible.  In the Studio I’m really looking forward to Smother. The trailer is amazing and I think it’s going to be a really powerful piece, perfect for an intimate venue.”

Kate Evans, Marketing Publications Officer

“I’m excited to see Run The Beast Down, our next home-grown production. It looks like it’s going to be a really unusual and exciting piece. Other than that, I’m looking forward to Sunny Afternoon and the return of The Play That Goes Wrong.”

And there’s one show that everyone’s looking forward to: War Horse, which will open its new tour with us in September.

WAR HORSELondon 2015

War Horse










2016: our year in review


A local samba band kick off our Marlowe 5 celebrations

As the end of 2016 approaches, we take a look back over the last year.

The main event of the last year was, of course, our fifth anniversary celebrations which took place in early October. We celebrated our birthday with a weekend of community events that included live music, street theatre, theatre tours and workshops that covered everything from drumming to puppetry.

Our Marlowe 5 weekend also featured performances of work created by The Marlowe Theatre. These included Warrior Poets, an immersive installation that the explored the experiences of children in care in Kent – created in association with the Wise Words Festival, and renowned poet Lemn Sissay.


The Warrior Poets installation in The Marlowe Studio

The weekend culminated in a special Marlowe 5 gala performance, all in aid of our new Creative Opportunities fund. This featured artists representing the wide range of work we’ve put on over the last five years, from Glyndebourne Opera, Northern Ballet and the Philharmonia Orchestra to past pantomime stars, and performers from musicals such as The Bodyguard and Chicago. The evening also looked to the future with excerpts from Mamma Mia! and the National Theatre’s War Horse, both highlights of our programme for 2017.  We also held a raffle, with the prize of a holiday, generously donated by Kuoni, to help us raise funds for future creative work.


War Horse at the Marlowe 5 Gala Performance

Also featured in the gala performance was an extract from this year’s community production, Stacked! inspired by both Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and the events of Operation Stack, it told the story of a disparate group of people who are stranded in The Canterbury Tales pub, each with a tale to tell, stories which span the globe.

Stacked! – our first community production to be performed in the main auditorium – featured writing from members of our writers’ workshop and filled the stage with refugees, nuns and GI’s, in settings as diverse as a desert refugee camp, a Second World war dance hall and the pub across the road. There were also special appearances by a dragon, a camel and some very lost aliens, alongside specially composed music and songs.

Also in the main house this year, we had a sell-out production of Madama Butterfly from Glyndebourne opera and a visit from the National Theatre of Scotland with The James Plays (a thrilling trilogy of plays performed over one day). We’ve also had hugely popular musicals such as Hairspray, and Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the latter of which which featured both a flying car and a robotic dog.

April saw the return of the Royal Shakespeare Company, with a unique production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Staged to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, it featured local non-professional actors from the Canterbury Players and children from St Ethelbert’s School in Birchington, performing alongside RSC professionals. One of the members of the Canterbury Players, Lisa Nightingale, became the RSC’s first-ever female Bottom.


Lisa Nightingale as Bottom

This wasn’t the only Dream of the year. To tie in with the RSC production, schools from our Learning And Performance Network (an initiative run in conjunction with the RSC) also worked on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, culminating in two performances, one in our auditorium and the other in various locations in Margate, including Dreamland.

We’ve also continued to bring you the best in comedy and music over the last year. We’ve introduced a new main house comedy night, Live At The Marlowe, which will continue next year. In music, we’ve brought you everything from CeeLo Green to our regular season of concerts from the Philharmonia Orchestra. February’s Masterful Melodies was notable for featuring the brilliant conductor Lahav Shani as both soloist and conductor of Mozart’s piano concerto No 20, K466. The other piece he conducted that night, Mahler’s First Symphony, was a particular favourite for many staff here.

It’s also been an exciting year in The Marlowe Studio. Shows performed there this year included Backstage In Biscuit Land – a show like no other, performed by Tourettes’ sufferer Jess Thom. Her condition means Jess is neurologically incapable of staying on script – which makes for a very funny and thought-provoking evening.

The Marlowe Studio also hosted the return of Vamos Theatre with their highly popular play The Best Thing. There were also performances of Fabric, a Marlowe-supported play which then went on to have an award-running run at the Edinburgh fringe.

The Marlowe Studio has also been the setting for much of the work of Roar!, our new writing development programme, that helps emerging writers develop their work through a series of workshops and rehearsed readings.

Staying with drama, but moving outside of our building, we co-commissioned (along with Live Theatre Newcastle) a work called Mobile, from theatre company The Paper Birds. Dealing with issues of social mobility, Mobile was performed in a caravan, albeit a caravan like no other. As well as a residency on our forecourt, the caravan also visited Canterbury high street, Margate, the University of Kent campus and local schools.


A scene from Mobile (Yes, this really is the inside of a caravan)

Behind the scenes, we had a vote of confidence in our work from Arts Council England, who awarded a substantial grant from their Catalyst:Evolve fund to The Marlowe Theatre Development Trust. The purpose of this fund is to help arts organisations find a way to develop their fundraising capabilities and raise money to undertake more activity.

Of course, our end year ended in traditional fashion with our pantomime Dick Whittington.  Wowing audiences and critics alike, this spectacular show starred Stephen Mulhern with Ben Roddy and Lloyd Hollett.

So it’s goodbye to 2016 and we look forward to welcoming you back to our theatre next year!