The Pacific comes to The Marlowe

Not literally of course – we’d all be very wet. But the Royal New Zealand Ballet will be putting  a little bit of the Pacific region on stage in Canterbury, when they bring a mixed programme of contemporary dance to us in November.

NZ Ballet mixed prog

The night, entitled A Passing Cloud, features four works, all of which are new to the UK.

The lead work of the programme is The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud, which was created for the RNZB by Venezuelan-born, London based choreographer Javier De Frutos.

Javier won the Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreographer in 2007 for his work on the West End revival of Cabaret. He also worked with the Pet Shop Boys to choreograph ballet score The Most Incredible Thing, which was performed at London’s Sadler’s Wells in 2011. He’s also worked on several pieces at the National Theatre.

This piece was commissioned to mark the 60th anniversary of the RNZB, and it’s described by Javier as his ‘gift’ to New Zealand.  It’s set to a mixture of New Zealand and Pacific music, and even includes some spoken Maori. The costumes feature traditional motifs and imagery.

The programme also includes two works by New Zealand choreographers  – Andrew Simmons’ Dear Horizon and Neil Ieremia’s Passchendaele . Both pieces commemorate New Zealand’s role in the First World War, but also reference the unique  Maori culture, and New Zealand’s dual cultural heritage.

The fourth piece is Selon Désir (According to desire) by Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis, first performed by the Geneva Ballet in 2004. It’s inspired by the opening choruses of Bach’s St Matthew and St John Passions.

This exciting evening of new dance works is at The Marlowe for just two evenings, on Tuesday 10th and Wednesday 11th November. To book, click here:

A thank you from us to you

Hello, from the Most Welcoming Theatre in the South East! This isn’t just us blowing our own trumpet, but the public verdict on The Marlowe.

UK Theatre, the industry’s leading body, announced today that we have won the award for Most Welcoming Theatre in the South east. This means we’re now in the running for the award for Most Welcoming Theatre in the UK, competing against the other eleven regional finalists. The winner will be announced at the UK Theatre Awards at London’s Guildhall on Sunday 18 October.

We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who voted for us, and to everyone who has supported us in the four years (almost to the day, our anniversary is this Sunday) since we re-opened in our new building.

Our Theatre Director Mark Everett says: “The fact that our customers have voted us most Welcoming Theatre in the South East is hugely gratifying and rewarding. It means a lot to me but also to all The Marlowe’s staff, without whom, of course, this award would not have been possible.”

“We have come on in leaps and bounds since 2011 and now welcome more people than ever before to the main house, The Marlowe Studio and our creative and educational workshops.”

Now, of course, we have to wait to find out if we’ve won the national award. Fingers crossed!

A Better Woman: Meet the director

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Last week, we brought you news of our new, home-grown production, A Better Woman. Today, we’d like to introduce you to the play’s director, who started working full time on the project this week.

She’s Tilly Vosburgh, who is probably best known for her work as an actress, especially on EastEnders, where she played the role of Susan Rose for two years. Tilly also has a growing career as a theatre director, which started when she began working with drama students after the birth of her children.

Of A Better Woman she says: “It’s a really interesting play, because although it is very funny, it’s also a very good study in human relationships and all the minutiae of when relationships go a bit wrong, and how even a really healthy relationship can go wrong. I think Simon [the play’s author Simon Mendes da Costa] is really quite a genius at looking at all the ins and outs of relationships and also I think the audience will be quite touched by the play, because at the end of the day, all of the characters are looking for happiness really – contentment, rather than thrills. I think the characters are really warm and interesting, and it’s very funny.”

That is one aspect of the play which Tilly is particularly well-qualified to judge: “My dad was a comedy writer – a guy called Dick Vosburgh, who wrote for The Two Ronnies and David Frost, etc – so I was brought up on comedy and from age 4 or 5 my dad was running his material past me, seeing if it made me laugh. So I think I’ve always had a kind of comedy brain. Although my acting career has actually mostly been quite the opposite of comedy!”

We’ll have more updates on this production in the coming weeks.

Introducing The Royal New Zealand Ballet

The Marlowe has a long history of bringing our audiences the best dance – whether contemporary of classical – from around the world. This year we’re delighted to be able to introduce you to New Zealand’s oldest performing arts organisation, The Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB to their friends) who will be making their Canterbury debut this November. They describe themselves as “international in outlook, but proud of being Kiwi”.

This is borne out by their company – although most of the dancers are from New Zealand, there are also company members from America, Japan, and several parts of Europe (but no Brits at the moment – although they promise us this is just coincidence and not a policy!).

The RNZB will be bringing us two very different performances, which show the breadth of which this unique company is capable. They’ll start their run here with a mixed programme of contemporary dance (titled A Passing Cloud), featuring new works, most of which have never been performed outside of New Zealand before. Their week with us ends with a well-known classical work in the form of Giselle, in a new version produced by two superstars of the ballet world – Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg (formerly principal dancers of the American Ballet Theatre and the Royal Ballet respectively).

The RNZB is unusual in the dance world in having this mixed repertoire of classical and contemporary dance, both being performed by the same company.

Amanda Skoog, the company’s Managing Director tells us, “The dancers are very good at moving across from the classical to the contemporary. New Zealanders are quite physical people, and it’s a very physical company so if we only did the classics I think they would get stale.”

Touring is at the heart of what RNZB do – although they’re based in Wellington, much of their time is spent on the road, performing across New Zealand and the world. Recent international tours have taken them to China and Los Angeles, where they performed the production of Giselle which will appear at our theatre. The LA Times described their performance as having “impressive skill and vibrancy”.

Their last tour of the UK was in 2011, when The Times thought, “These beautifully disciplined Kiwis can really rock,” and The Guardian said, “The company look wide awake, sexy and charged.”

We’ll be bringing you more details of A Passing Cloud in a future blog.

Our guide to Glyndebourne: Saul

SAUL ensemble

SAUL ensemble

Continuing our guide to the operas Glyndbourne are bringing to our theatre this year. Up this time: Saul.

This production is a bit of an unusual one for Glyndebourne, mainly because Saul isn’t technically an opera at all. It was in fact, composed as an oratorio. What, you may well ask, is an oratorio? Well, the word comes originally from the Italian word for ‘pulpit’ or ‘oratory’  – and as this suggests, oratorios have their roots in religious services.

In many other ways, they are very similar to operas, featuring as they do orchestras, choirs, and soloists performing arias. However, while operas deal with a wide range of subjects, oratorios are usually concerned with religious stories. In their original form, oratorios would have featured less interaction between characters and minimal costumes, props and sets. It’s now common for oratorios to be staged to the same level as operas – that’s the case with this production, as you can see from the images here.

SAUL_Glyndebourne, Director; Barrie Kosky, Saul; Christopher Purves, David; Iestyn Davies, Merab; Lucy Crowe, Michal; Sophie Bevan, Jonathan; Paul Appleby, High Priest; Benjamin Hulett, Witch of Endor; John Graham_Hall,

Having (hopefully) cleared that up, let’s move on to the plot. Being an oratorio, its subject matter is indeed religious. Freely adapted from the Biblical First Book of Samuel, it tells the story of the first King of Israel ( the Saul of the title) and his difficult relationship with David (of Goliath-slaying fame), his eventual successor, which finally (spoiler alert!) leads to Saul’s tragic death.

Although composed by the German-born Handel, Saul is sung in English, and was first performed in London, where Handel had been living for several years, in 1739. Musically, it’s conceived on a hugely grand scale, and requires a large orchestra, with very unusual instruments, including a carillon – a keyboard instrument which makes a sound like chiming bells. Handel’s enthusiasm for these instruments led his collaborator, Charles Jennens, to describe him as having a head “full of maggots”.

The best known piece of music from Saul is the ‘Dead March’ which appears in part three. It’s been played at many state funerals, including that of Winston Churchill.

This production is the Glyndebourne debut of Australian director Barrie Kosky, who won the Best Director prize at the International Opera Awards in 2014. It’s been hugely well-received, with five star reviews from several critics, including those from The Telegraph and The Independent (and opera critics are a tough crowd, they don’t give out stars lightly!).

The Telegraph said of this production, “It’s a knockout that brings the work blazingly alive and transforms bewigged pieties into high human drama.” The Independent  described it as musically “flawless” while The Guardian said “theatrically and musically, this is one of Glyndebourne’s finest shows of recent years.”

We’re definitely in for a treat with this one.


A Better Woman : Made by The Marlowe

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Excitement has been building backstage at The Marlowe Theatre. Tickets went on sale this week for our second ever in-house production. But what is it, and why are we so excited?

Well, the play itself is called A Better Woman and it will run in The Marlowe Studio from Tuesday 1 to Saturday 19 December – perfect if you fancy a little theatre-going to give you a break from your Christmas shopping, but panto isn’t your thing.

The play is a comedy by acclaimed playwright Simon Mendes da Costa, who also wrote Losing Louis – a West End hit starring Linda Bellingham and Alison Steadman, which was also produced on Broadway.

It’s a touching comedy telling the story of Tom, who turns to online dating to help him find the one. He embarks on a series of eventful dates, watched over by his despairing neighbours, discovering that when it comes to love and relationships, age doesn’t necessarily bring wisdom, and it’s never too late to make the wrong decision.

Author Simon says: “It’s about a man in his mid–forties who’s been on his own for a few years, and life is passing him by, and he decides that it’s time to get back out there… I suppose it’s a play about what it’s like to date, and to start again…and all the anxieties that go along with being older and dating again…and hopefully it’s funny.”

The play is The Marlowe Theatre’s second home-grown production, after last year’s Beached, which sold out its run at The Marlowe Studio and transferred to Soho Theatre. Like Beached, A Better Woman will be part-financed by a grant from Arts Council England – their backing is definitely a feather in our cap. The production has also been made possible through the generous support of The Marlowe Theatre Development Trust.

The play will be directed by Tilly Vosburgh, who’s best known as a actress, having appeared in EastEnders and Casualty, but also has a growing career as a theatre director.

Casting is taking place as we speak. We’ll be bringing you lots more news about the production over the next few weeks, giving you an exclusive insight into how the production is made, right up until opening night!

The Marlowe’s Blood Brother

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Blood Brothers is famously set in Liverpool – but it also has a Canterbury connection.

Next week, our theatre will be playing host to Bill Kenwright’s classic production of Willy Russell’s  Blood Brothers. Since it was first created nearly thirty years ago, this production has notched up more than ten thousand West End performances (one of only three musicals to achieve this) and been seen by hundreds of thousands of people. But when the performers step on stage at The Marlowe, they’ll be back where it all began.

How come? Well, twenty eight years ago, legendary producer Bill Kenwright was looking for a theatre to trial and perfect his new production of Blood Brothers.  He approached The Marlowe (then of course still in its old building) who were more than happy to help out.

Bill says: “I went to see the original incarnation of Blood Brothers in London – which wasn’t doing so well – and like everyone who sees it, I fell in love with it, and I just felt that I knew how to do it. I felt, instinctively, I knew what the key might be to make this a success. I approached Willy, but I think he was a little bit scarred by the West End run, because it hadn’t been a hit, and the rights weren’t available. I have to say, I badgered him for a few years, and then a friend of mine got a rep licence, to do it at Hornchurch, and Willy and I went to see it together, although we didn’t really know each other. And it wasn’t great. Willy and I drove back from Hornchurch together, and I said, ‘Give me the rights, and I swear to you, I’ll get it what you want it to be.’ And at the end of the journey, he said ‘Alright Billy, do it. I will come and see the first production, wherever you do it, and we’ll take it from there.’  And we opened in Canterbury, I think in 1987. My journey with Blood Brothers began there, and I’ll never forget it. It was an odd auditorium, and it was an odd place to start Blood Brothers, Canterbury rather than Liverpool, and yet it just felt like I was home, I felt like I was at the Liverpool Empire! I’ll never forget the feeling. The staff were all fantastic. And on the opening night at Canterbury – look, you never know you’re going to get a thirty year run, of course you don’t – but I knew I had something special. It didn’t have a huge advance at Canterbury, but it built and built and built throughout the run, and I totally fell in live with Canterbury during the time it was there. And that was the beginning.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

If you’re a Marlowe Friend, you’ll be able to read more from Bill Kenwright in the next issue of our Friends magazine Spotlight, which is out in November.

Book here