Paul Merton - Marlowe Theatre



Paul Merton - Marlowe Theatre
to m
The mbers
Frie lowe
The magazine of The Marlowe Friends
Issue 3 Summer 2012
The Mousetrap
World premiere to
appear at The Marlowe
as part of 60th-year
Michael Law
Founder of the
Piccadilly Dance
Orchestra on the
music in his life
Paul Merton
TV funnyman talks about returning
to stand up comedy for the first
time this century
Stage Door
Tim Stubbings
Porgy AND Bess
eet the staff working
behind the scenes to
ensure every visit
is magical • P18
Our resident photographer
on his fascination with the
theatre and capturing that
‘Marlowe moment’ • P10
Cape Town Opera
Company present
a moving, heartfelt
production • P26
to me
The mbers
The magazine of The Marlowe Friends
ISSUE 3 Summer 2012
Welcome to the latest edition of
Spotlight, the magazine designed
and published exclusively for all
Marlowe Friends!
The Mousetrap
World premiere to
appear at The Marlowe
as part of 60th-year
Michael Law
4 News
8 Les Dennis
The TV presenter speaks
about his role in the musical
Legally Blonde
10 Tim Stubbings
The Marlowe’s resident
photographer on his
fascination with the theatre
12 The Mousetrap
World premiere of Agatha
Christie’s thriller to appear
at The Marlowe as part of
its 60th-year celebrations
The Marlowe Friends
special events
Exclusive talks, workshops and tours running throughout the year
Michael Law
Founder of the Piccadilly Dance Orchestra on the
music that has filled his colourful life
Stage Door
Meet the staff working behind the scenes to ensure every visit is magical
20 Paul Merton
TV funnyman talks about
returning to stand-up comedy
for the first time this century
21Laura Kimpton
Columnist Laura Kimpton
on the trials and tribulations
of the theatre lover
22Discounts and events
for The Marlowe Friends
Plenty of savings to be made
and events to be enjoyed
across Kent for our members
The Ladykillers
Kindred Rose on the unusual origins of his father’s screenplay
26 Porgy And Bess
Cape Town Opera Company present a moving production
Founder of the
Piccadilly Dance
Orchestra on the
music in his life
Paul Merton
TV funnyman talks about returning
to stand up comedy for the first
time this century
Meet the staff working
behind the scenes to
ensure every visit
is magical • P18
Our resident photographer
on his fascination with the
theatre and capturing that
‘Marlowe moment’ • P10
Cape Town Opera
Company present
heartfelt, moving
production • P26
Issue 3 Summer 2012
COntact us
We welcome all comments,
questions and submissions.
Write to us at our address
below, or email
[email protected]
Laura Kimpton
Dawn Kingsford
Sarah Munday
Mia Power
Editor Sarah Munday
Design Cog Design
Photography Tim Stubbings
ISSN 2046-4703 (print)
ISSN 2046-4711 (online)
The Marlowe Theatre
The Friars, Canterbury
Kent CT1 2AS
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I am looking
forward in 2012
to a programme
full of variety
and, I hope,
appeal to all
our Friends.
Thank you for your support for the new Marlowe over what
were equally difficult and exciting opening few months.
During the closure period we took the opportunity to consult
with colleagues in other theatres that had been through a
major rebuild or refurbishment and we found their comments
and advice very helpful. However, no one told us quite how
challenging it is to cope with the “snagging” and “defects”
that (we now know) inevitably accompany the opening of a
large and complex building like a theatre, at the same time
as actually running it!
Many of you have been very patient with us about the various
teething issues that may have affected your enjoyment of our
new theatre. Many Friends have also been very helpful through
letting us have comments on the new building – warts and all!
Again, thank you. It is very useful to have people’s views, and
we have been able to act on many of the suggestions.
With our first pantomime now successfully behind us (more
people came to see Cinderella than any other pantomime
in Canterbury) I am looking forward in 2012 to a
programme full of variety and, I hope, appeal to
all our Friends.
We all look forward to welcoming you to The
Marlowe again very soon.
Page 10
Spotlight Summer 2012
Page 12
Page 26
Mark Everett
Theatre director
Summer 2012 Spotlight
Dirty Dancing
It may be a year away, but Dirty
Dancing is proving to be one
of the hottest tickets in town!
Coming to The Marlowe
Theatre for three weeks from
2 April 2013, the musical has
been breaking box office
records wherever it goes –
more than five million people
have seen it worldwide with the
London show alone playing to
more than one million.
Dirty Dancing – The Classic
Story On Stage features all
the much-loved characters
and original dialogue from the
iconic film. There’s also some
new choreography as well as
the familiar dance sequences,
and new songs alongside the
original soundtrack, which
featured Do You Love Me?,
Hungry Eyes and (I’ve Had)
the Time of My Life.
The producers are delighted
The Marlowe Theatre is
included in this extension to the
first national tour: “It has been
wonderful to see audiences
across the country embracing
the show with the same passion
and support that it received in
the West End. As Dirty Dancing
enters another exciting new
stage in its UK journey, it shows
no sign of slowing down.”
Tributes to James Hyde OBE
and David Lee MBE
FOUNDER President of The
Marlowe Friends James Hyde
died late last year, aged 93.
Passionate about theatre, and The
Marlowe in particular, James was
instrumental in setting up The
Marlowe Friends in 1992 and, with
his beloved wife Rosa, was seen
regularly at productions and at
every major Friends event until
his retirement in 2008.
Friends Chairman June Brewer
recalled one fundraising event he
was especially keen to be involved
in: “We put on a fashion show back
in 1996 and James elegantly walked
the catwalk impeccable dressed,
as always, with a glamorous lady
proudly on each arm! He was truly
the quintessential gentleman and
his charming manner endeared
him to all.”
June said there were many
occasions when she turned to
James for advice and his wise
counsel never failed her.
James, of Ethelbert Road,
Canterbury, handed over the
presidential reins to David Flood
in July 2008 but he never lost
his interest in The Marlowe and
The Marlowe Friends.
Spotlight Summer 2012
Dave Lee was many things to
many people: family man, charity
worker, musician, comedian,
pantomime performer – and
Patron of The Marlowe Friends.
Over the years, Dave, who died
in January aged 64, supported
The Marlowe Friends on many
occasions. Chairman June Brewer
said: “He was a stalwart, always
there when needed and more
than happy to help.
“Dave really was a giant of a man
in every sense and it is hard to
imagine that we shall never hear
his quick wit or see his smiling
face again. But, as one of the
pantomime stars said to me,
there will be a lot of laughter
in heaven!”
Above Dave is pictured with TV
presenter and pantomime performer
Stephen Mulhern and Marlowe Theatre
Director Mark Everett in December. To
commemorate his 1000th performance
at the theatre in January 2009, Dave
was presented with a dressing room
door plaque. He safely kept the plaque
during our redevelopment and vowed
to put it back on his door when the
building opened. Thankfully, he was
able to do so.
Muffin, the dog
Name a Seat
the marlowe comedy club
Who would have thought that
mongrel Muffin would turn out
to be a show dog?
While big-time comedians
continue to sell out the main
house weeks in advance, up-andcoming stars continue to pack
‘em in at the monthly Marlowe
Comedy Cabarets.
Held in The Marlowe Studio,
they are organised by Ben Travis,
who reckons comedy is the new
Rock ‘n’ Roll: “You think of the
huge arena tours, top comedians
sell out, night after night, and
think back to where they started.
The Marlowe Comedy Cabaret
gives our audiences the chance
to see the stars of tomorrow.
Comedian Tom Deacon has
appeared with us – you’ll start
seeing him on TV, and sketch
group Jigsaw are doing a pilot
for BBC 3.”
Along with stand-up
comedians and sketch groups,
music is now a popular addition
to these quirky evenings. An
added bonus is the cabaret
menu on offer, brought to your
table along with your drinks.
Not his owner Jane Hargraves,
that’s for sure. Jane, who lives in
Bredgar, near Sittingbourne, with
husband Bill, has been a Marlowe
Friend for years. And some Friend
– without fail, she distributes
our brochure in her parish and
is a keen theatre-goer. When
Jane heard about the scheme to
name a seat in the new Marlowe
Theatre, she jumped at the
chance: “I have been associated
with The Marlowe for so long, I
just wanted to do something.”
But rather than see her own
name on a plaque on the back of
a seat, she opted to “name” it in
honour of her dog, Muffin. Jane
said: “I’ve always had dogs and
they’ve always been dachshunds,
but Muffin is the nicest one I’ve
owned, he’s an absolute character
and I just thought it would be a
lovely thing to do for him.”
More than 260 people have so far
named a seat in the auditorium.
Anyone else wishing to do so –
for their dog, themselves, their
family or friends, can now pay £25
a month, spread over 20 months
(making a total of £500). For
details, call 01227 456448.
*In reality, we do not allow any
dogs other than assistance dogs
into the auditorium.
in numbers
Wine and wisdom
Marlowe Friends have always enjoyed pitting their wits
over a Pinot at wine and wisdom evenings. These are
held at the Chaucer Club, Canterbury, and the next are
on Monday 16 April and Monday 21 May (7pm to 7.30pm
start). There are only 13 tables at each one so organiser
Sandra Hooper advises to book early – and also not to
worry if you can’t make up a table of six.
“Let me know how many players you have and I can fit
you on with other Friends if you are willing to play with
people you may not know – yet!” Tables cost £7 each,
which includes two bottles of wine (per table), nibbles
and a finger buffet. To book, call Sandra on 01304
611470 or email [email protected]
Since the first one in
December 1993, there have
been 103 Marlowe Friends
concerts, which have been
seen by 24,230 people and
raised £123,000. Chairman
June Brewer’s idea for a
one-off which might raise
£500 (but which actually
made almost £3,500), has
now blossomed into a major
fundraiser. Friends 2012
concert dates – page 23.
Summer 2012 Spotlight
The Marlowe
Young Musician
of the year
Sleeping Beauty
Pantomime producers Emily
Wood and Paul Hendy have two
Sleeping Beauties on their hands.
Little Jago was born in February
and along with Freddie (six)
and Poppy (two), completes the
Hendy household. The baby is a
good sleeper (most of the time!)
but there’s no rest for the couple
as work goes on for the seven
pantomimes they are responsible
for this year.
Following on from the success
of Cinderella – which was watched
by a record-breaking 83,000-plus
people – this year’s show is
Sleeping Beauty. And although
it’s months away, auditions,
photoshoots, press briefings, print
design, production meetings, set
and costume design, and scriptwriting, all have to be achieved
before the start of rehearsals.
Paul said: “It sounds exhausting
– and sometimes it is – but the
work is nicely spread out over
the year and most importantly,
Emily and I work well together
and have great support. I tend
to do the more creative things
while Emily concentrates on the
business side – and of course,
we fit everything in around
the family!”
everyone is together and we’ve
got some 20 year olds, through
to retired people. Anyone can act
and here everyone gets a go. One
of our group is shy and reserved
and had never set foot on the
stage but at the end of the first
course was performing scenes
from Sex And The City in The
Studio in front of her friends
and family!”
Anyone Can Act starts again this
month (April), for 12 weeks. There
are also TV acting, auditioning
and casting workshops to come,
as well a variety of one-day
workshops. Check out our website
( for details.
Carrie Bradshaw and friends,
watch out! The characters from
the popular TV series (and spin-off
films) Sex And The City are being
brought to life in Canterbury every
week by some unlikely usurpers.
Gary Barber’s Anyone Can
Act workshops in The Marlowe
Studio are, like many of the other
workshops on offer, proving a
huge success.
Former actor turned teacher
Gary said: “The course is open
to adults of any age and any
ability. Often acting courses are
for young people only – here
Spotlight Summer 2012
A broken bow didn’t deter
violinist Ana Vandepeer from
giving the performance of her
(short) lifetime and taking the
title of The Marlowe Young
Musician Of The Year.
Luckily, the mishap
happened before the 16-yearold took to the stage and
she was able to borrow a
bow from The Kent Concert
Orchestra. The drama wasn’t
over though – it was a
close-fought contest and the
St Edmund’s School sixthformer, who has been playing
violin and piano since she was
four, won by just one mark.
Ana said: “I was nervous
but once I was performing,
I just forgot everything. I
enjoyed the evening so much,
especially being on stage
with a professional orchestra.
That was enough, but to win
was amazing.”
As for the future, Ana is
looking to continue her music
studies at a conservatoire or
university and then to go on
to be in a well-known
string quartet
playing around
the world.
this event,
which was
supported by
The Marlowe
Friends, can
only have
helped her
on her way.
a helping hand
As regular theatre-goers, you will have
noticed that for most shows of a week
or longer, we hold an audio-described
This involves a live commentary in between
the words and songs on stage, for our blind
and partially-sighted customers. While it’s
fairly obvious when one is taking place (the
headsets give it away!), an equally important
part of the service is a touch tour.
This happens an hour or so before curtainup and the audio describer and company
manager will take the customers on stage to
get a sense of proportion and be told about
the scenery, props and costumes. Meeting
cast members is a bonus!
As audio describer Denise Smith puts it:
“A touch tour helps set the scene – touching,
not seeing, is believing in this case.”
Pat Marshall, who is blind and a Marlowe
regular, said: “As well as the touch tour,
there is the actual audio-described
commentary through the headset which fills
in the gaps in the dialogue with descriptions
of action, expressions and scenery, thereby
affording me complete continuity and I am
consequently able to enjoy a production to
the maximum.”
Riverside MENU
food & Drink
A new season sees new tastes
at The Riverside Restaurant.
A spring/early summer menu
is now available. And with the
warmer weather, you can enjoy
the new dishes on the terrace,
overlooking the River Stour.
Head Chef Andy Milne has been
busy sourcing local seasonal
produce and with his team, is
May Liddiard, another regular who is registered
blind but who has some useful sight, said an
audio-described performance enriches her
outing and allows her to keep a track of the
characters. She added: “It is especially good
for the important things I would otherwise
miss, such as a prop being handed over... is it a
knife, a gun or a packet of crisps?”
using it to offer the highest
quality food at a good price.
Marlowe Friends can now get 15
per cent off food and hot drinks
(excluding the pre-show menu).
Platinum Friends get 20 per cent
off. Another new offer is one
child eats free with one paying
adult on children’s show days.
Andy has also been busy being
a new dad: he has become a
bit of a hero at The Marlowe by
delivering Rex, his first baby, at
home by himself earlier this year!
in numbers
There are now more than
12,000 Marlowe Friends,
which is an increase of 7,000
in the last two years. Friends
are looked after by Amelia
Power – you can contact
her on 01227 862309 or mia.
[email protected]
Summer 2012 Spotlight
Legally Blonde The Musical is promising to put the
colour into summer when it comes to The Marlowe in
June. Dawn Kingsford caught up with comedy cast
member Les Dennis to ask him about his latest role.
Spotlight Summer 2012
found the perfect part. He reveals:
“I don’t usually play someone so
mean and calculating. So I’m loving
the challenge.”
“Rehearsals were hectic, as Ray and
I joined an established show, which
meant there were just the two of us
with our director, Dom Shaw. On
opening night for us in Aylesbury, the
following week, it was sink or swim.
I’m just glad to say we both swam and
have since discarded our armbands.
“My wife Claire, who was in the
audience and is my biggest critic,
says she couldn’t tell it was our first
night. I can’t ask for more than that.”
While not his first musical (Les has
appeared in Hairspray, Me and My Girl
and Chicago), the part comes with its
own unique demands… not least, a
10-minute warm-up skipping session,
nights when he can’t get the songs
out of his head and a ‘baptism of fire’,
every night, with his first song!
“The most daunting thing,” says
Les, “is getting used to the fact that
my first entrance is my big number.
“Usually you have a couple of acts
before you sing, but Blood in the Water
is Callahan’s establishing scene. It also
has a big finish that you have to nail.”
So, how does he unwind? “I’m
working on a one-man play called
Jigsy for the Edinburgh Festival in
August and, of course, being dad to
two little ones – that takes my mind
off the show. Even so, while I’m not
losing sleep over it just yet, I still can’t
Photo: Paul Rider
woman scorned’ makes for an
award-winning show this
summer when the hot West
End hit Legally Blonde The Musical
comes to The Marlowe Theatre.
Based on the hit movie, starring
Reese Witherspoon, it charts the
hilarious antics of the lovely, if lightweight, college sweetheart Elle Woods
(Faye Brookes) as she joins Harvard
Law school to win back her boyfriend
Warner (Ray Quinn) after being
unceremoniously dumped.
A moralistic romantic musical,
featuring 18 magical musical
numbers, 19 costume changes and
a colourful cast, including two dogs…
what else could score so high in
the popularity stakes? According to
comedian Les Dennis, who will be in
the cast when it visits Canterbury,
“It’s a feel-good tale that is touching,
funny and inspiring. It’s like
Hairspray: A great night out, and
not just for girls.
“It’s always fun to see the guys who
have been dragged by their partners
to watch it, jumping to their feet at
the end.” The Liverpudlian joined
the tour with Ray Quinn (Brookside/
X Factor/Dancing on Ice) in January
and is having a ball playing the ‘bad
guy’, for once, as the mean, cut-throat
lawyer Professor Callahan.
Indeed, the 58-year-old TV
presenter, whose difficult personal life
led him to announce he was done with
‘playing the victim’, may well have
Photo: Johan Persson
This much fun
can’t be legal!
Top: Faye Brookes and cast
Above: Les Dennis
get the songs out of my head and
often wake up singing them!”
Fortunately, he’s in good
company, with leading lady Faye
Brookes (Grease) – billed as one
of the brightest West End heroines
– performing 16 of the show’s 18
numbers as part of the drama that’s
skilfully directed and choreographed
by Jerry Mitchell (Hairspray). So has
Legally Blonde The Musical got Les
thinking about more serious musical
roles? He smiled: “Nothing like
Phantom of the Opera! I’m too old and
it’s too high. Maybe Thenardier in Les
Mis, Nathan Detroit in Guys And Dolls…
and I’d love to have a crack at Fagin!”
Legally Blonde The Musical is set to take
Marlowe audiences from the social whirl
of California Campus life to Harvard’s
Halls of Justice from Tue 5 to Sat 16 June.
It’s a feel-good
tale that is
touching, funny
and inspiring.
It’s like Hairspray:
A great night
out, and not
just for girls.
Summer 2012 Spotlight
It’s been a
pleasure working
alongside the
heart of the
theatre – the
various teams
and unsung
heroes that
keep it all going.
top row:
Tim took these pictures at
our three test performances,
Rubber Biscuit, Sensational
Sixties and Back to Basie
The Marlowe’s favourite photographer
Tim Stubbings reveals all – focusing
on his fascination with the theatre from
its regeneration to the present day.
ome six months after opening,
writes Spotlight Editor Sarah
Munday, memories surrounding
that momentous and hugely emotional
time for all at The Marlowe Theatre,
have gradually started to fade.
But the work of photographer Tim
Stubbings ensures there is a lasting
legacy. You’ll have seen his pictures –
many have been in Spotlight (including
this edition), in the press and on our
website. Included on these pages are
a small selection of the many photos
that weren’t used but which were just
crying out to be seen.
Apart from being great images,
they perfectly capture that Marlowe
We have all enjoyed working with
Tim, and here’s what he thinks: “Being
a photographer means that you get
Spotlight Summer 2012
your natural sense of curiosity and
nosiness satisfied on a regular basis.
You get to see things that others don’t,
and one project that has stood out for
me in this respect has been the new
Marlowe Theatre. From the surreal
views of the demolition (seeing real
blue skies and clouds alongside the
fake ones on the old theatre walls)
to a concrete jungle of foundations
and hard steel that took shape – in all
weathers – and which rose above the
rooftops into a stunning building.
“But it’s not just been about
architecture. It’s been the pleasure
of working alongside the heart of
the theatre – the various teams and
unsung heroes that keep it all going.
It’s been a great opportunity to build
relationships with such an important
part of our region’s cultural life.”
middle row:
The Marlowe Theatre’s opening
gala on Tuesday 4 October
2011 was attended by HRH The
Earl of Wessex, with music by
The Philharmonia Orchestra
Bottom Row:
My Marlowe Opening Weekend
was three days of street arts,
live music, dance, workshops
and theatre performances. It
also gave people the chance
to look round for the first time
Summer 2012 Spotlight
The Marlowe will make theatrical history when it stages the world
premiere of The Mousetrap tour in September. Dawn Kingsford
turned detective to find out what continues to make this the world’s
most-loved and longest-running production.
Classic Christie
with all OF the
Spotlight Summer 2012
snow storm, in September, in
Canterbury? It can only mean
one thing… The Mousetrap is
coming to The Marlowe!
Holed up in the West End for 60
years, the epic blizzard-based Agatha
Christie thriller ventures on to fresh
snow for its first UK tour this autumn
– with the much-sought-after world
premiere in Canterbury.
“It’s the news audiences have been
waiting to hear,” Theatre Director Mark
Everett enthuses, “and we’re delighted
to be staging this must-see, magical
murder mystery here at The Marlowe
for its first ever UK tour outside of the
capital since 1952.”
An all-star line-up has been promised
for the 60-week road-trip by the
Producer of the West End’s longestrunning show, Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen,
who has taken the historic decision to
mark The Mousetrap’s Diamond Jubilee
this year by taking it on tour under the
direction of Angus Jackson.
He said: “Having such an
extraordinary, unprecedented, and
historic event as a 60th anniversary
made this a great occasion to broaden
the play’s audience throughout the
UK and I hope local theatre-goers will
welcome the chance to see it without the
need to make a special trip to London.”
Theatre-supporters in Canterbury
have even more to celebrate, with Sir
Stephen describing The Marlowe as
the perfect place for the premiere,
adding: “We have all been impressed by
the quality of the new theatre and the
interest shown by audiences in seeing
good shows. I have not yet visited,
but all I hear about it, and from the
photographs I have seen, suggest what
a good venue it will be to launch this
special tour.”
In spite of the monumental move,
Sir Stephen is at pains to point out
that there are no plans to end the
production’s record-breaking run in
London, with performances continuing
in the capital in tandem with the tour.
However, he admits, coming up with a
second series of showings has not been
without its problems. A new line-up of
actors and under-studies will be taking
to the casting couch and a brand new
backdrop, costumes and props have
had to be commissioned – all of which
will be seen first by audiences at The
Marlowe. Already arousing interest
(the last major change to the production’s
West End set was 12 years ago), Sir
Stephen would only reveal: “The detail
of the new set for the tour is not yet
finalised, but I expect it to be rather
similar to that in London, remaining
true to what Agatha Christie wrote
and required.”
And as far as the production’s new
leading men and women (each will
tour for 12 weeks), he adds: “We will
be looking to cast stars, well known for
their previous work, able to do justice
to this fine play.”
Few will need reminding of The
Mousetrap’s classic storyline, penned by
the world’s most famous crime writer,
which has outlived the Cold War, seen
the Queen’s coronation and survived 12
British Prime Ministers. The detective
Above: Lottie Latham
as Miss Casewell
Left: The current cast
of Agatha Christie’s
The Mousetrap
Now you
have seen The
Mousetrap you
are our partners
in crime, and
we ask you
to preserve
the tradition
by keeping
the secret of
whodunit locked
in your hearts.
Summer 2012 Spotlight
tale, set in the 1950s, finds eight
strangers stranded with a murderer
in a snow storm at the isolated guest
house of Monkswell Manor. Only a light
dusting of clues and a skiing detective
are provided to steer audiences and cast
through the deep snow of suspicion to
solve this notorious twisting tale and
determine whodunit?
As famous as the script itself, are
Christie’s efforts to cover the tracks of
the killer for future audiences and for
many, the story would not be complete
without its now-famous curtain speech.
But there’s no need to worry, promises
Sir Stephen: “We are not planning
to make any script changes and the
traditional curtain speech will definitely
be included throughout the tour, which
runs through 2013 and into 2014.”
So, super-sleuths prepare to be
captivated, caught-up in the drama,
and to share one of theatre-land’s most
closely-guarded secrets when The
Mousetrap opens at The Marlowe on
11 September.
Sixtieth celebrations
To mark its 60th year, Mousetrap
Productions has also licensed 60
professional companies to perform
The Mousetrap world-wide. In this
unprecedented move, the show will
be seen in every continent, with shows
scheduled for Australia, Canada, China,
Czech Republic, France, Germany,
Holland, Hungary, Italy, Korea, Poland,
Russia, Scandinavia, South Africa, Spain,
Turkey, United States, Venezuela.
Be a celebrity
Those buying tickets for
the tour at The Marlowe
will be in good company
– joining royalty, film stars
and celebrities to swell The
Mousetrap’s total audience
to more than 10 million.
Few would have
expected that the play,
which has never been
published, or turned into
a movie or TV programme,
would intrigue so many
– becoming as much of
a must-see for visitors to
the capital as Buckingham
Palace and Trafalgar
Square. Indeed, as Richard
Attenborough, who took
the lead when it opened
in 1952, said: “It’s like a
London institution – like
the ravens in the Tower.”
However, its popularity
continued to bemuse its
author, who expected
it to run for only a few
months. In a rare interview,
Agatha Christie said: “It’s
Spotlight Summer 2012
not really frightening. It’s
not really horrible. It’s not
really a farce. But it has a
little of all these things and
perhaps that satisfies a lot
of people.”
How little she knew.
Guests have munched
their way through more
than 500 tons of icecream since opening
night, with VIPs including
Her Majesty the Queen –
who also celebrates her
Diamond Jubilee this year
– the Duke of Edinburgh
and the Queen Mum, who
saw it on the eve of her
79th birthday.
Sir Winston and Lady
Churchill also joined the
audience in 1957 and
Prime Minister John Major
waxed lyrical about the
world-famous production
at The Mousetrap’s 40th
anniversary party on 25
November, 1992.
Recent visitors have
also included film director
Quentin Tarantino and
Madness singer Suggs.
Above Sir Winston and
Lady Churchill met The
Mousetrap’s cast after
slipping in to a showing
in 1957
The Marlowe Friends enjoy a range of
exclusive events throughout the year.
Mousetrap Morsels
• The play began life
as a short radio play
called Three Blind Mice,
broadcast on 30 May 1947.
• The play opened at The
Ambassadors Theatre in
1952 and played there for
21 years before moving
next door to St Martin’s
• The show entered its 60th
year in the West End with
its 24,587th performance.
• 403 actors and 235
understudies have
appeared in the West
End play.
• The voice of one original
cast member, the late
Deryck Guyler, can still
be heard reading the radio
news bulletin in the play.
• Only the mantelpiece
clock remains from the
original 1952 West End
set. The leather armchair
was retired in 2004 after
52 years.
• Agatha Christie was born
in Torquay in 1890 and
died on 12 January, 1976,
aged 85. The Queen of
Crime sold more than
two billion books and had
three plays running at the
same time in the West
End, a feat never matched
by any other woman. She
became a Dame of the
British Empire in 1971.
Above: The unforgettable
Richard Attenborough and
his wife Sheila Sim in the
original 1952 production
The Marlowe Friends
Special Events
Family Friends
Workshops, talks and
tours for the young
children in your life.
Sat 26 may 2pm & 3.30pm
Peppa Pig Puppet
(3-6 years)
Fri 24 Aug 2.30pm
The Gruffalo Post-Show
(3–6 years)
Fri 28 Dec 5pm
Sleeping Beauty
Talk & Tour
(8-16 years)
Artist Talkback
Pre-show talks with
members of the cast and
company giving you the
chance to ask questions and
hear about life backstage.
Thu 19 Apr 6pm
Avenue Q
Thu 28 Jun 6pm
Porgy And Bess
Thu 9 aug 6pm
Dreamboats And Petticoats
Thu 4 oct 6pm
Haunting Julia
Thu 8 Nov 6pm
Beauty & The Beast
Panto meet
the cast
Meet other Marlowe
Friends for a cup of
coffee and enjoy a talk
by one of the company
before the matinee.
Come and meet the cast
of Sleeping Beauty, have
your photo taken with
the stars and get your
programme signed!
Sat 12 May 11.30am
Midnight Tango
Wed 2 Jan 2013
Sleeping Beauty
Sat 9 Jun 11.30am
Legally Blonde
Sat 4 aug 11.30am
Dreamboats And
Sat 15 Sep 11.30am
The Mousetrap
Summer 2012 Spotlight
Marlowe Friend Michael Law has much to smile about,
having composed an enviable career for himself
from the music he loves. Dawn Kingsford went along to
meet up with the band-leading pianist and singer.
Michael Law
etting Margaret Thatcher on the
dance floor, now that’s a boast,
but then mild-mannered music
man Michael Law is full of surprises.
Well-known to Marlowe Friends,
I met the founder of the Piccadilly
Dance Orchestra at home in
Canterbury, surrounded (as one
might expect) by music books, a stack
of 78rpm records and a much-loved
radiogram. It was to this he turned to
set the tone for our interview, with the
music that has filled his colourful life.
Born the youngest of three, he
grew up in Nairobi where his father
– Sir Eric Law – was a judge for the
Colonial Service. It was in Kenya,
recalls Michael (51),where his love
for music flourished after receiving
a wind-up gramophone and the 78s
from his dad.
“My father played piano and my
mother loved to sing, so the house was
always full of music. The sophisticated
swinging music of the 1920s to
1940s was a family favourite and I
grew up listening to the great songs
of Cole Porter et al, and from this my
passion grew.”
Educated in England, he learned
piano from the age of nine, eventually
attending King’s School, in Canterbury
(where he ran and composed numbers
for the school’s jazz band), before
moving on to Cambridge, then the
Royal College of Music, where he
studied opera.
Student days, according to Michael,
were a heady mix of singing lessons
and master classes, playing the piano
in bars to make ends meet, and
Spotlight Summer 2012
operatic performances (including one
for the Queen and Prince Charles).
But, by 1988, he admits, he was ready
to turn his back on opera for good.
“It was a gamble,” says Michael.
“No one gives you a career in 20s and
30s popular music, you have to invent
it yourself and that’s why I founded
The Piccadilly Dance Orchestra.
“We aim to revive the true Big
Band Sound with sensitivity, lovingly
dusting off timeless recordings to recreate their original sparkle – and this
has been the secret of our success.”
Success, indeed, with six albums
recorded, and highlights including
residencies at The Savoy and The
Ritz and performances for radio and
TV, Proms in the Park and at Earl
Spencer’s 30th birthday party, when
Princess Diana danced and listened
to the band until three in the morning.
And that “Maggie Moment”? “Yes,
it was in 1991” says Michael, “I’ll never
forget it. We were playing at John Paul
Getty’s party when suddenly Margaret
Thatcher took to the floor. She was a
really elegant dancer and we kept her
on her feet all night.”
Fond memories, according to
Michael, but he confesses he’s never
happier than when he’s performing in
the city he returned to last year and
has always called home.
My father played
piano and my
mother loved to
sing, so the house
was always full
of music.
Michael will be putting the zing into
swing with his hilarious anecdotes
alongside The Piccadilly Dance
Orchestra in You’re The Top at The
Marlowe Theatre concert on Thu 26
April. Tickets are on sale now.
Summer 2012 Spotlight
We go behind the scenes and meet three of the
unsung heroes who ensure every visit to The
Marlowe is magical.
Stage door
heir faces are seen by hundreds
but for thousands, they are
hidden from view. The Marlowe
Theatre’s Stage Door and its three
keepers are, as one has described it,
the oil that operates the cogs.
Josie Kay Merry, Natalie Reuter and
Will Millar are an entertaining, cheery
bunch – and they have to be. With early
starts and late finishes, seven days a
week, they ensure that the general dayto-day running of the backstage side of
the theatre runs smoothly.
It’s not just about welcoming the
performers though, as Josie (29)
explains: “We oversee the general
security of the building ensuring that
everyone is authorised and accounted
for when venturing into public and
non-public areas.
“We watch over the fire alarm
systems, intruder alarms and the
building management system, which
allow the theatre to operate its own
climate. Also, we are trained to deal
with any emergency that comes our
way, from first aid to fire evacuations,
from lost property to maintenance.”
Spotlight Summer 2012
Of course, Stage Door is a central
port of call for performers, other
visitors and staff. Josie again: “I’d like
to think that we offer a little piece of
home for anyone who should need
us. We try to venture beyond our call
of duty in times of need and offer a
kind of pastoral care – a smile and a
hug goes a long way when you are
homesick, as some actors are.”
Stage Door is also the focal point
for fans, as witnessed during the
pantomime. Josie, Natalie and Will
are happy to receive letters, cards and
flowers for performers, but also have
to keep things under control.
Natalie (23) recalls: “Dealing with
fans can lead to some funny moments.
There was one lady who kept asking
everyone coming out of Stage Door
if Stephen Mulhern was still in the
theatre. Then when he came out, she
didn’t recognise him and asked him if
he could go and get Buttons!”
And when a show runs for as long as
pantomime does and everyone gets to
know the cast and company, it can be
difficult to say goodbye.
Above left: Assistant Stage
Door Keeper Natalie Reuter
Above right: Assistant Stage
Door Keeper Will Millar
Opposite page: Stage Door
Keeper Josie Kay Merry
It’s great meeting
new people who
love theatre as
much as I do
and making new
friends, but saying
goodbye when
they pack up and
move on is hard.
Will (25) says: “It’s great meeting
new people who love theatre as much
as I do and making new friends, but
saying goodbye when they pack up
and move on is hard.”
Will’s not alone in his passion for
theatre: Josie and Natalie feel the
same (as do all Marlowe staff). All
three also have experience of it.
Josie, who lives in Dover, debuted at
the age of three as the Ugly Duckling
in a ballet at the Leas Cliff Hall in
Folkestone. When she was later told
she was the “wrong size” to fulfil her
dream of becoming a professional
dancer, she got into swimming, and,
by the age of 14 was representing
Kent and England.
Josie eventually returned to
her first love of dance, but also
discovered theatre and studied both
at school. In 2005 she founded Black
Fish Touring Company before going
to Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge,
graduating, in 2010, in film and
drama (and a spell as captain of the
women’s rugby team).
As well as writing and directing
independent films while studying,
Josie went to work for the Cambridge
Corn Exchange, starting out Front of
House and then moving backstage
before becoming Assistant General
Manager. When the job at The
Marlowe came up, it was a chance for
Josie to move back to her home town
and fulfil a long-held ambition of
working at the theatre.
She is now involved with Dover
Operatic and Dramatic Society,
intends to work with Black Fish
again – and has appeared in
a locally made zombie
Natalie, who lives in
Herne Bay, grew up
in Southampton and
was an active member
of Nuffield Youth
Theatre. She studied
English literature and
film at the University
of Kent and The
Marlowe is her first
job in theatre.
Will also started
young and has been
associated with
theatre in one guise
or another since the
age of 11. His first
job was a stage hand
and he’s gone on to
design and run lighting
and sound, be Stage
Manager, Assistant
Stage Manager, Musical
Director and Assistant
Director. He also acts,
sings, dances and
writes, and spends
much of his free time
composing, doing table
magic and hypnosis,
and auditioning.
And Will’s favourite part
of the job? Decorating Stage
Door for Christmas! As
Josie, says, a little piece
of home.
Summer 2012 Spotlight
t’s been a while, but we’re all
delighted to see him back. Paul
Merton is returning to stand up
for the first time this century.
One of the best loved comedians
in the country, Paul is taking Out of
My Head – his first new written show
since 1998 – on a 50-date tour, which
comes to The Marlowe Theatre on
24 April.
The new show will give us an
unprecedented insight into the
wondrous workings of Paul’s mind.
Coming out from behind the Have I
Got News For You desk, where he has
been sitting for the past 22 years, the
comedian will also prove that he has
actually got legs!
In Out of My Head, we can look
forward to a hugely entertaining
evening of stand-up, interspersed with
sketches, music, magic, variety and
dancing girls. Paul, who has been at
the top of his game for more than two
decades now and is one of the world’s
great improvisers, is bubbling with
enthusiasm about hitting the road
once again with a stand-up show.
“We’re having such a great time,”
beams the comedian, who has also
enjoyed a highly successful second
career as a travel documentary
presenter on such memorable series
as Paul Merton in China and Paul
Merton’s Adventures.
“It’s about taking the plunge and
devising a show that is fully scripted.
It has stand up, sketches, interaction
with the audience, and a few things
that will startle people. Working on a
tour that starts off as a mere jotting on
the back of a fag packet and develops
into a spectacular show is a sheer joy!”
Having been a key member of the
country’s most famous improvisational
troupe, The Comedy Store Players,
since its formation in 1985, Paul is a
wonderfully charismatic performer.
He particularly relishes his connection
with the audience. “I get such a buzz
from performing live,” confirms the
comedian, who has also displayed
his love for early cinema in TV
documentaries such as The Birth of
Hollywood and Silent Clowns.
“It’s just the best rush in the world,
better than anything else you can think
of! If you’re trying to convince a TV
producer that something is funny, it
can take ages. But if you have a good
idea with The Comedy Store Players,
you can just say it there and then and
you immediately know whether it’s
funny because you’ll hear the sound
of laughter – or not!”
Paul, who for many years presented
the highly successful BBC2 comedy
show, Room 101, continues: “It’s so
inspiring. You just ride the wave of
laughter, and then you might come up
with something equally funny. Ralph
Richardson used to talk
about pushing a
huge ball up a hill
to the point where
it suddenly gains
momentum and
starts rolling down the
other side. That’s what live
comedy is like. The only snag is,
you have to do it while trying to
look completely relaxed!”
Paul Merton
Stepping into the Spotlight for this edition
is funnyman Paul Merton.
Spotlight Summer 2012
Working on a tour
that starts off as
a mere jotting
on the back of
a fag packet and
develops into a
spectacular show
is a sheer joy!
Laura Kimpton
The show
must go on!
ow, as every sane person
knows, lazy Sundays are
best observed from the
safety and comfort of the sofa,
preferably in the company of
those most comforting of British
institutions – a cup of tea and a
costume drama.
However, a recent Sunday
saw me throwing myself at the
mercy of public transport because
there was a theatre ticket with
my name on it. More specifically,
a ticket to see a soon-to-be
closing production at the Menier
Chocolate Factory (which is one
of my favourite venues – after
The Marlowe of course)! Happily,
despite the inevitable transport
difficulties, I did get to London
successfully and the show was
more than worth the trek.
No doubt my story strikes a
chord with many of you, and I’m
sure will pale in comparison to
those some of you have about the
lengths you have gone to see a
particular production. However,
the passion of theatre-goers, and
even that of Marlowe Friends,
does not come close to that of the
actors, musicians, stage crews
and theatre staff who keep a huge
variety of shows running across
the country on a day-to-day basis.
When you think of all the
elements involved in a
production, particularly a largescale one, that’s no mean feat.
And yet, things rarely go wrong
and when they do, they are
usually quickly and efficiently
resolved and somehow, rather
than breaking the magical
spell that theatre casts, seem
to heighten the experience,
reminding us that nine-tenths
of the beauty of live theatre is its
unpredictability – the feeling that
anything can happen and that
no two performances will ever
be identical.
I will never forget being in the
audience at War Horse when the
Company Manager walked onto
the stage to deliver the news that
one of the horses involved in the
production had been “injured”
and would have to be attended to
before the show could continue.
There was a collective intake of
breath as adults and children
alike crossed their fingers in hope
that the horse (for at this point
When you think of all
the elements involved
in a production,
particularly a large-scale
one, that’s no mean feat.
we were well past thinking of
the equine characters as anything
other than flesh and blood) would
recover. The interval chatter
recommenced, but more quietly,
and eventually the Company
Manager stepped back out
onstage. He looked serious; was
it bad news we all wondered? As
he announced that the horse was
cured, the audience broke out
into spontaneous cheers, many
rising to their feet, unconsciously
adding another magical moment
to an already fantastic theatre
As a member of a couple of
local musical theatre groups I’ve
experienced my fair share of
“the show must go on” moments
as a performer, from performing
on a set which had to be given
a wide berth as the paint wasn’t
dry in time for opening night,
to opening the door at the top
of a tower to reveal an absent
staircase and a rather large drop!
These moments have further
convinced me that those in the
business of creating the fantastic
productions we all enjoy should
truly feel our support. How
you choose to express this is a
personal matter of course, but
I think we should feel proud
that collectively we have gone
a long way towards doing so
by supporting the creation of a
theatre which both performers
and productions who visit
Canterbury can be proud to
call home.
Laura Kimpton: Marlowe Friend
and avid theatre-goer at all times.
Summer 2012 Spotlight
Discounts for the Marlowe Friends
A Simmonds
5% discount
on all purchases
27 St Margaret’s Street
Canterbury CT1 2TG
01227 769842
£3 discount on purchases
of £15 or more (ask a
member of our team for
terms and conditions)
Whitefriars, 7 Gravel Walk
Canterbury CT1 2TF
01227 769295
Tea Room
10% discount on total spend
Stone Street, Petham
01227 709719
Camera Centre
10% discount on developing
and printing (excl. digital)
Unit 4, St Georges Centre
Canterbury CT1 1UL
01227 763905
2 for 1 on entrance
and guided tours
The Precincts
Canterbury CT1 2EH
01227 762862
Special discount ticket
£5 per head on presentation
of this voucher, valid until
31 December 2011
St Margaret’s Street
Canterbury CT1 2TG
01227 479227 (info line)
Spotlight Summer 2012
Cathedral Shop
Kent Ballooning
Pastry Patisserie
10% discount (excl. online sales)
25 Burgate
Canterbury CT1 2HA
01227 865300
10% discount on all Flight Vouchers
Yew Tree Studios
Stanford North
Ashford TN25 6DH
01303 812812
10% discount
2 Palace Street
Canterbury CT1 2DY
01227 450146
Chives Cafe
At The Horsebridge
Longleys Private Hire
10% discount
42 St Peters Street
Canterbury CT1 2BG
01227 768033
10% discount
The Horsebridge Arts
and Community Centre
Whitstable CT5 1AF
01227 281255
10% discount on local journeys
(please state that you are a Marlowe
Friend at the time of booking)
01227 710777
Chromos Art Shop
5–10% discount on most holidays
259 Canterbury Road
Herne Bay CT6 7HD
15% discount on full price items
(free hand massages and free
makeovers. We also offer free
group make-up lessons)
21a Marlowe Arcade
Canterbury CT1 2TJ
01227 458889
Loupe Gallery
Snappy Snaps
10% discount on art and craft supplies
(excl. special offers and publications)
77 Stour Street
Canterbury CT1 2NR
01227 450836
Crowthers Music
10% discount on music and CDs
1 The Borough
Canterbury CT1 2DR
01227 763965
Paint Your Own
Pottery Studio
10% discount on creatives
29 Palace Street
Canterbury CT1 2DZ
01227 765665
[email protected]
Fudge Kitchen
10% discount
16 Sun Street
Canterbury CT1 2HX
01227 479399
Funky Monks
10% discount
21 St Peters Street
Canterbury CT1 2BQ
01227 781781
Leo’s Pride
5% discount on all framed images
54 Harbour Street
Whitstable CT5 1AQ
01227 636864
Madame Oiseau
Fine Chocolates
10% discount on all chocolates
(purchases over £10)
8 The Borough
Canterbury, CT1 2DR
01227 452222
[email protected]
Marlowe’s Florist
5% discount on all flowers
St Margaret’s Street
Canterbury CT1 2TH
01227 463275
Ortwin Thyssen
Jewellery Maker
30% discount on any valuations
of jewellery carried out by a
registered independent valuer
53 Palace St, The King’s Mile
Canterbury CT1 2DY
01227 788200
[email protected]
10% discount on all prints and
35 Rose Lane
Canterbury CT1 2SJ
01227 456789
Team Buckley
10% discount on all treatments
2 Broad Oak Rd
Canterbury CT2 7PW
01227 458430
The Dressing Room
10% discount on all purchases
74 Northgate
Canterbury CT1 1BB
01227 454712
Tim Stubbings Photography
Minimum 5% discount
01227 460604
[email protected]
Holiday Properties
£20 discount on any holiday
Hillcross Estates, 224 Tankerton Road
Whitstable CT5 2AY
01227 273318
Woodland Discovery
One child per family goes free
(not available on Bank
Holidays or in conjunction
with any other offer)
Wildwood Trust
Herne Common
Herne Bay CT6 7LQ
0871 7820081
400 Club
The 400 Club is our monthly draw,
giving you the chance to win between
£10 and £100. Costing only £1 a
month to join, it also means you are
helping to raise funds for our theatre.
For an application form, please visit
our website or phone The Marlowe
Friends office on 01227 862309. The
form is also on the back of the outings
brochure. You can see a list of winners
on our website (
or, if you prefer, we can send you a
printed copy.
Wilkinsons Taxis
10% discount on all
metered fares
Unit 4 Dunkirk Industrial Park
London Road
Faversham ME13 9LG
01227 450450
Hair & Beauty
Walking Treasure Hunt
15% discount on first
treatment including
pamper packages
Wealden Forest Park
Herne Common CT6 7LQ
01227 713371
There will be a Walking Treasure
Hunt on a Sunday in August (date
to be confirmed). Please call Sandra
Hooper on 01304 611470 for details.
The Marlowe Friends Events 2012
(all in The Marlowe Studio)
You’re The Top
The Railway Swing Band
with Michael Law’s
Piccadilly Dance Orchestra
Wed 19 Sep
Thu 26 Apr
Jon Williams and Chris Price
Opera Tottie
Sun 24 Jun
Bach To The Future
Good Gnus! with David Flood,
Sun 11 Nov
A Christmas Carousel with
with Carol Anne Wells
Geoffrey Horton, James Kinsella
and Jo Miller-Shepherd
Sun 15 Jul
Sun 16 DEC
Reviews of our outings can be found on The Marlowe Friends
page of the website
Summer 2012 Spotlight
illiam (Bill) Rose was born in
Missouri in 1918. He showed
considerable artistic talent
as a child, and by 1939 he was living
in New York and doing a series of very
odd jobs while trying to find work as
an illustrator.
After a turbulent and difficult
time he was finally offered an
extremely good position with the
New York Times, but on the toss of a
coin decided instead to forgo it and
volunteer for World War Two. He
joined the Canadian Black Watch
and was stationed in England during
the war. In 1943 he met Tania, his
first wife, in London. They became
engaged in four days and married
the following year. After the war
they went to live in Scotland for nine
months on an extended honeymoon,
and it was then that he began writing.
Initially he wrote short stories and
a stage play. His first produced work
was The Quicksand Years (1946) – a
radio play for the BBC. He made an
early decision to specifically write
screenplays, and his first good break
came in late 1946 when he was
given a traineeship at Pinewood
Studios. His first writing credit was
for Esther Waters (1947). This film
was in production but floundering
due to unresolvable problems in
the script. Bill and the three other
trainee screenwriters were asked
to read it over a weekend and offer
suggestions. He rewrote the entire
film from scratch over the weekend
and presented the studio with a
new script on the Monday morning.
They were immensely surprised,
but liked it sufficiently to replace the
shooting script with it. This caught
the attention of Jack Lee who then
commissioned him to write Once A
Jolly Swagman (1948).
Three other commissions followed,
but his first original work came after
two very difficult years in which he
had had virtually no work and he
and Tania had been fairly destitute.
Genevieve (1953) changed their luck
entirely and properly established his
reputation. He was then offered a
contract with Ealing and wrote four
films for them, The Ladykillers (1955)
being the best known.
The Ladykillers began its life in
the middle of the night sometime in
the summer of 1954 when Bill and
Tania were living in a tiny cottage in
Hampstead. He woke her up and said
that he had had a most peculiar dream
in which five criminals were living
in a little house with a charming old
lady. He then proceeded to tell her
the entire plot and essential concept
of the film, then promptly fell back
to sleep. Tania was so struck by the
idea that she stayed awake the entire
night, then asked him at breakfast if
he remembered the dream and their
conversation. He remembered nothing
at all, and heard his idea for the first
time, as it were, from her.
Bill was reluctant to work with
Alexander Mackendrick as their
Top: Bill Rose
Bottom: On set of The
Ladykillers, Ealing 1955
Right: Bill Rose at typewriter
previous collaboration on The Maggie
(1953) had become very stormy.
However he, and everyone at Ealing,
became convinced that Alexander was
the only director that could do the idea
justice. This time the collaboration was
far happier, and a lot of the work was
done from home. One day Tania was
asked to prepare lunch for an extra
person but to leave the house herself –
Bill and Alexander wanted to interview
a convicted murderer who had killed
a man while robbing a jewellers and
spent years in the condemned cell
before being reprieved. They wanted
to know if he thought the essential
plot was credible. According to Bill he
sweated profusely as he thought about
it, then said he thought that it was.
After Ealing and a further difficult
two years, Bill had a second career
in Hollywood where he wrote five
films the most well known being It’s
A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1962 –
co-written with Tania), The Russians
Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming
(1966) and Guess Who’s Coming To
Dinner (1967). He died in Jersey
in 1987.
Out of the 17 films he wrote, The
Ladykillers is the only film to have
been inspired by a dream. He talked
about most of the other films for
years or sometimes for over a decade
before writing them. The Ladykillers
went from the initial conception
to being on the screen in less than
a year making it by far the fastest
idea of his to be realised. He usually
wrote comedies, but The Ladykillers
is his only black comedy, and while
his other British and American films
are generally very much of their
era, often endearingly so,
The Ladykillers stands
out as being the most
timeless film he wrote.
He woke her up
and said that he
had had a most
peculiar dream
in which five
criminals were
living in a little
house with a
charming old lady.
The Ladykillers will be
playing at The Marlowe
from Tue 25–Sat 29
The classic Ealing comedy The Ladykillers comes to
The Marlowe this year fresh from its highly acclaimed
run in the West End. Bill Rose wrote the original
screenplay and here his son Kindred tells of its
unusual origins.
Spotlight Summer 2012
Summer 2012 Spotlight
Porgy And Bess must surely be one of the
highlights at The Marlowe Theatre this
summertime. Here, John Allison, who was
born and educated in Cape Town, takes a
look at opera, Cape Town-style.
porgy AND bess
ith a strong and
predominantly black
chorus as its backbone,
Cape Town Opera Company
(CTO) is well placed to perform
Porgy And Bess and the subject
matter has a strong resonance
in modern South Africa, where
life in the poorer communities
is rife with violence, drugs,
unemployment and continued
class segregation.
The production looks back at
the period of apartheid’s highest
arrogance, taking inspiration
from township life in an era when
gambling, drinking and street
music were practically the only
forms of entertainment open to
people. Yet urban life in modern
South Africa – full of Catfish Rowlike communities – is mirrored
here too and the daily reality for
many of the singers back home is
more dangerous and fraught with
difficulty than anything depicted
on stage.
As Michael Williams, CTO’s
Managing Director, puts it: “When
our cast sing Porgy And Bess, they
sing from the heart because it
means something to them.”
Spotlight Summer 2012
Unmistakably part of the “new”
South Africa in terms of both its
make-up and aspirations, CTO is
a young company, founded in its
present form only 13 years ago.
However, its story started long
before 1999 and the company
has roots in solid local
operatic tradition.
CTO grew out of the ashes of
the opera department of Cape
Performing Arts Board (CAPAB),
one of four regional councils set
up to fund and control the arts
during the apartheid era. One of
its aims was to show the world
– and convince white South
Africans – how “civilised” the
country was.
made its debut
in 1964 with
The Bartered
Bride. Moving
When our cast
to a newly built
sing Porgy And
opera house in
Bess, they sing
1971, the opening
production was
from the heart
Aida – an interbecause it means
racial drama
something to
played out for
a whites-only
audience. By the mid-1970s, the theatre
itself was officially desegregated, but
the company was still unable to employ
non-white performers.
In parallel with all this, artists
from the city’s so-called “coloured”
community organised themselves into
The Eoan Group, an indefatigable
ensemble that, despite all obstacles,
promoted several seasons of opera at
the Cape Town City Hall. Many notable
voices emerged there, and some of
them – or their descendants – were
eventually embraced by CAPAB. But
nothing was easy in those politically
sensitive times. Though encouraged
by artistic managements to exploit
legal loopholes and perform opera
(and ballet), artists from Cape Town’s
black and coloured communities
could easily find themselves branded
as collaborators.
From 1989, under Angelo Gobbato’s
artistic directorship, CAPAB Opera
made strenuous attempts to fill its
stage with casts more representative
of the country’s demographic,
tapping into the strong tradition of
black community choirs and laying
the foundation of the present CTO.
Programming changed, too, especially
after 1994, with new South African
works being commissioned and
premiered (the Mandela Trilogy being
the most recent example).
The other ‘feeder’ company was –
and remains – the University of Cape
Town’s Opera School, also under
Gobbato’s control in the 1980s, but
with an interesting history going back
to the early 1920s under the direction
of the Italian tenor Giuseppe Paganelli.
In 2012, opera is as much a part of
the city’s cultural life as ever, but those
at the helm of CTO have had to fight
hard for its continued existence. Not
surprisingly, in the early post-apartheid
years, CAPAB and the country’s other
performing arts councils became
synonymous with the old regime, and
government funding was cut off in
the late 1990s. The opera companies
in Pretoria, Durban and Bloemfontein
quickly folded, but in Cape Town the
management, the friends organisation
and potential sponsors rallied to save
something that was indeed valued
across the community, and CTO
was born.
John is Editor of Opera magazine
and Chief Music Critic of the Sunday
Telegraph. Porgy And Bess is at The
Marlowe from Wed 27–Sat 30 June.
Summer 2012 Spotlight
Sponsors of the
Friends Of The Marlowe
for 15 years
Playing a starring role
in financial advice
A truly independent locally owned
employer with Chartered Status
since 1973.
Pharon offers real commitment to
Canterbury and East Kent through
sponsorship of a large range of
Art, Sport and Youth Activities.
Pharon Independent Financial Advisers Ltd, Lawrence House, Summer Hill, Harbledown, Canterbury, Kent CT2 8GT
Telephone: 01227 787000
Fax: 01227 819804
Email: [email protected]
Authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority
Photograph kindly supplied by Spires Academy, Canterbury.