Memories of Agatha Christie, from her grandson

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie: crime writer and loving grandmother

This September the legendary murder mystery, and the longest running show in theatre history, The Mousetrap, returns to us. We were really intrigued to find out about the modest, generous and enthusiastic woman behind these thrilling books and infamous plays, in this personal piece from Agatha Christie’s grandson Matthew Pritchard.

I suppose it took some time for it to sink in that I had a famous grandmother known to the world as Agatha Christie. I first remember her during the years when I was at preparatory school and her house at Wallingford was nearby. We used to have enjoyable ‘exeats’ on Sundays and it was, I think, then that the first glimmers of understanding came through.

Very sensibly, the headmaster of my school insisted on initialling all books that came into the school. I came back from Wallingford clutching the latest Agatha Christie and wondering, quite genuinely, whether the Head could possibly find any reason for withholding the coveted signature. He never did! There was, however, one occasion when my book took a terribly long time to re-appear. Later I realised that the headmaster’s wife had taken the opportunity to read it!

In such small ways, therefore, did I become aware that I had a talented grandmother. Not that it made a great deal of difference to me. She was just a marvellous grandmother and someone nice to have around. I think perhaps there were four things which, more than anything else endeared her to me. The first was her modesty. To the outside world I suppose this appeared as shyness, but to us she was always infinitely more interested in what we were thinking and doing than in herself.

She could manage to write a book almost without one noticing and sometimes she used to read the new one to us in the summer down in Devonshire. She did so partly, I suspect, to test audience reaction, but partly to entertain us on the inevitable wet afternoons when, no doubt, I was rather difficult to amuse. We all tried to guess, and my mother was the only one who was ever right. I think most of my friends who met her during those years were quite astonished that such a mild, gentle grandmother could really be the authoress of all those stories of intrigue, murder and jealousy.

The 60th Anniversary tour of The Mousetrap. Image: Liza Marie Dawson.

The 60th Anniversary tour of The Mousetrap. Image: Liza Marie Dawson.

Her next great characteristic was her generosity. It is by now well-known that she gave me [the rights to] The Mousetrap for my ninth birthday. I do not, I’m afraid, remember much about the actual presentation (if there was one) and probably nobody realised until much later what a marvellous present it was, but it is perhaps worth remembering that my grandmother had been through many times in her life when money was not plentiful.

It was therefore incredibly generous of her to give away such a play to her grandson, as in 1952 her books were only approaching the enormous success they have now become. It is also a mistake to think of her generosity only in terms of money. She loved giving pleasure to others – good food, a holiday, a present, or a birthday ode. She loved enjoying herself, and also to see others around her enjoying themselves.

The third thing I always enjoyed was her enthusiasm. Despite her modesty or shyness, it was never far below the surface. I think she always had a love/fright relationship with the theatre. Although I am sure she found the experience very wearing, she always enjoyed other people’s enthusiasm for her plays and found it infectious.

I went to The Mousetrap several times with her in varying company – family parties, girlfriends, and the Eton cricket team when I was captain in 1962. I would say we all enjoyed the play and my grandmother’s company in equal measure. But she was enthusiastic about other people’s plays as well, about archaeology, opera and perhaps above all about food! In short, she was an exciting person to be with because she always tried to look on the good side of things and people; she always found something to enthuse about.

When I had the pleasure of taking my own children, aged twelve and eleven, to The Mousetrap for the first time they enjoyed it tremendously, and crossed off assiduously in their programmes those whom they thought couldn’t have done it. It was a great evening for me, and would have been, I am sure, for my grandmother had she been there.

I think it tells us something about the success of the play, too: it contains so much for everybody – humour, drama, suspense and a jigsaw puzzle – suitable for all ages and taste; regrettably not too many plays on the London scene can say the same, and I sometimes feel that actors and actresses, anxious like everybody else for employment, must wish that there were more plays with universal appeal like this.

The 60th Anniversary tour of The Mousetrap. Image: Liza Marie Dawson.

The 60th Anniversary tour of The Mousetrap. Image: Liza Marie Dawson.

My grandmother died in January 1976. My family received hundreds of letters from all different walks of life and every part of the world, and I have never seen such a uniform expression of devotion and admiration. No doubt that was because she was a kind, generous and devout person, and preferred always to believe the best of people. She never had an unkind word to say about anybody. We were all left with many happy memories and, of course, all her books and plays, which I am sure will be enjoyed for many generations to come.

It would be remiss of me not to say, on this occasion, something about my grandmother and Peter Saunders. I myself remember Peter as a persistent producer of medium-pace off-cutters in my boyhood cricket days at Greenway in Devon. I am sure it is no exaggeration to say that many Agatha Christie plays would never have been written at all but for his judicious mixture of persuasion, encouragement, confidence and pleading. She adored it all, and certainly, we all recognise what The Mousetrap owed Peter in its earlier days. His confidence in it never wavered and its longevity is as much a tribute to his great partnership with my grandmother as to anything else.

It is inevitable perhaps that my own impressions of my grandmother are rather personal ones. She was, above all, a family person and though everybody, from the literary world, from the world of archaeology and from the stage, has good reason to be grateful to her, it is her family who have the most to be grateful for – her kindness, her charity, and for just being herself.

The Mousetrap is with us Tuesday 1 – Saturday 5 September, as part of a national tour.

Reflections on The Rights Of Others

The Rights Of Others, The Marlowe Theatre

Just a small group of our The Rights Of Others cast!

Words: Sarah Munday

Through blood, sweat, but no tears, our community production was a big success, in more ways than one.

More than 240 participants took part in The Rights Of Others, which played to full houses earlier this month (8-11 July).

As The Marlowe’s Press Officer and mum to one of the younger participants (more from him later), I guess I have a unique take on the piece. But it doesn’t matter which hat I wear, my resounding opinion is the same: what an amazing feat! How did it all come together so smoothly …

One of the people responsible for this is our Arts Management Trainee, Emma Nicholas, who produced The Rights Of Others. Two mornings after the night before, she described herself as “the legs of the swan under the water.”

The production was a steep learning curve for Emma, who only joined us in September. “Even though I worked on things like The Marlowe Young Musician Of The Year and Canterbury Children’s Festival, this was a huge leap for me, mainly because of the scale of it,” she says.

“It was stressful but I relished that. So much rested on my shoulders and there were a few moments where I wondered how we’d pull it off. Seeing it all come together was so satisfying.”

Chairing production meetings, organising schedules, licencing and risk assessments are some of the more practical aspects and even at this point, Emma still doubted her abilities: “I was a little unsure of my role and I thought I’d just listen and learn. I like being terrified!

“It wasn’t until the dress run when I realised I ‘did a thing’. And then when I saw the audience on opening night …”

A tearful moment for some, but not Emma: “I never cry!”.

On performance days, Emma’s focus was on Desperate Measures, the Studio play, rather than the promenade performances. She left the latter in the capable hands of Rose Bonsier, our Theatre Technical Trainee.

Andrew Dawson, our Head Of Creative Projects, has praised Rose for her “excellent and gracious approach to production management”.

Desperate Measures, part of The Rights Of Others at The Marlowe Canterbury

A production photo from the latter half of The Rights Of Others: Studio play Desperate Measures.

I caught snatches of The Rights Of Others through the week (and before), but it wasn’t until the Saturday that I watched the promenade all the way through (twice) and Desperate Measures. The atmosphere around the building, in both the public and private spaces, was great: a real buzz of nerves and excitement.

My lasting images: the whole company kitted out in their boiler suits; the bloodied face of Justice; the young dancers; the comradery; Robin Hood in the On The Banks Of Runnymeade scene; many stand-out performances in Desperate Measures.

But what did those taking part think? I briefly chatted with some of them and just loved their enthusiasm, honesty and dedication.

Henry Deighton, one of our more senior participants, belongs to our adult acting class The Marlowe People’s Company (and has done for some time; he took part in last year’s inaugural community production, The Garden Of England): “Yet another great experience for everyone – those taking part and hopefully, those watching. Andy’s vision is amazing.”

Another member of The People’s Company is Ryan Hill (29): “What I’ve liked is that it gets me out of my normal life [Ryan is a lifeguard]. I’ve had a lot of worries in the last few months, but thanks to this I’ve been able to forget them for a while. It’s been great meeting so many different people, and getting to know them.”

Connor Fentiman (19) is a member of The Marlowe Senior Company: “It’s the first time I’ve done anything like this and it’s been brilliant. The best bit is that we all came together and were able to express ourselves without being judged. It’s been hard work but in the end we have produced something that touches the heart.”

The Rights Of Others

Holly Lobban (11) is a member of The Marlowe Junior Company: “I play King John and had lots of lines to learn. It took me a while to learn them but now I know them without thinking about them. It’s really exciting, especially when it was being filmed.”

Edward Mairs (my boy) is nine and also a Marlowe Junior: “It was really interesting and I learnt a lot, especially about the Magna Carta. I liked working with Martin [Gibbons, practitioner] and I learned a lot working with the older ones – that they can be really sweaty!”

The last word is from our Head Of Creative Projects Andy, the man behind the vision for the project, and the writing and directing of Desperate Measures: “These projects are never easy and yet the invasion of 240 non-professionals across the theatre site was welcomed with generosity – it really is a privilege working with such a diverse group of participants. We all can’t wait for the next one, which will be even bigger and better!”

Finally, some advice for our Finance Manager, Paul Turner: you can’t always have your cake and eat it (especially when it’s a prop for Desperate Measures!).

Find out more about the project here.

The Rights Of Others was developed with the support of The Kobler Trust, Furley Page Solicitors and The Marlowe Theatre Development Trust.

A day in the life of… Adam Wood, Studio Manager

Adam Wood, Studio Manager at The Marlowe

Adam Wood, Studio Manager at The Marlowe

Continuing our series of blogposts meeting our staff team, today is the turn of the man behind The Marlowe Studio, Adam Wood.

How long have you been working at The Marlowe Theatre?

I started with The Marlowe in November 2010, wearing a fetching red gilet and green felt cap whilst ushering Peter Pan at The Marlowe Arena. When panto was over I transitioned to the Box Office, which was then based at Sun Street. I opened the new building in October 2011 as part of the Box Office team, got the job as Deputy Front of House Manager in September 2012, and took on the new post of Studio Manager in January 2014.

What does a typical day for you look like?

It’s probably a healthy balance of looking for new shows to come to The Marlowe Studio, talking to the companies behind shows that are coming up, popping my head into The Studio to welcome the company who are performing that evening, and some meetings with colleagues from various departments on all aspects of the day-to-day business of running The Studio.

What inspired you to work in theatre?

I had a job at the theatre in my home town, Hereford, which I returned to during academic holidays whilst studying for my BA. When I graduated that led to a full-time position at a theatre in London called Riverside Studios, and then I moved to The Marlowe (see above!) when I came to Canterbury to study for my MA. I could pretend that all that was to a plan, but in truth it was more happenstance.

How did you get to where you are today?

I just kind of stuck around and made it known I was looking to do more things and different things. I count myself super-lucky that the right opportunities came up at the right times for me: not once but twice a new post was created just as I was looking to make a change of role.

What is the best part of your job?

I get to make a contribution, however small, to the arts. For all of the hard work and the hoops that need to be jumped through—everything that goes into bringing a show to the building or working towards bringing a project to fruition—at the end of it there’s that wonderful feeling of watching an audience commune with a piece of art and really benefit from it. The power of art to enrich people’s lives is absolutely sacred to me, and working in service of that is a privilege.

What would you say has been your proudest moment since working at The Marlowe?

After a lot of hard work, a lot of lessons learned, and a real journey of discovery, it was great to be in the audience when our first in-house production opened in The Marlowe Studio in October 2014. Beached was a project that genuinely stretched the boundaries of what The Marlowe does, and it provided a vital first step down a path we’re now committed to: more new work, more home-made work, a new way to contribute to the artistic ecology of Kent.

Outside of work I…

Read a lot, write a little, drink too much coffee, meditate to alleviate the effects of the coffee, run sometimes, listen to a lot of music and podcasts, and watch films and… all the normal stuff.

Favourite productions you’ve seen at The Marlowe?

Every Brilliant Thing (Pentabus & Paines Plough), which came to us recently, is clever and funny, sad and moving, and just an outstanding piece of writing by Duncan Macmillan, and an incredible performance by Jonny Donahoe.

Dumbstruck (Fine Chisel), was an odd ensemble piece about marine bioacoustics… amongst other things. Quick-paced and whip-smart, it’s also wildly inventive and one of those shows I wish I could go back and see again for the first time.

Fleabag (Drywrite & Soho Theatre), the Olivier-award nominated one-woman show that our friends at Soho brought to us was one of the single best whirlwind performances that has graced the Studio stage, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s script is a drum-tight (if filthy) marvel.

And the production you’re most looking forward to?

Next season in The Studio is going to be a lot of fun: we’ve got an absurd physical-theatre love story (Crazy Glue) and a clowning show called that’s going to be an obscenely good time (Pss Pss). But probably the show I’m looking forward to most is He Had Hairy Hands by Kill The Beast: a 1970s werewolf detective mystery that has to be seen to be believed.

There are also some secret things I can’t talk about that are in the works, which are very exciting, so I guess keep an eye on the website and the Studio brochure.

Any advice for someone looking to get into theatre?

I don’t think there’s a set answer to this, and I can only really speak to my experience. But if it’s something you really love and want to be a part of, find a way to get your foot in the door—put on that gilet and the felt hat if you have to—and then stick around, do good work, and make it known that you’re interested in progressing. I think the arts in general, and perhaps theatre in particular, provide an environment that really allows for and encourages people to give what they can, in the knowledge that it won’t go unnoticed.

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.