Marlowe Theatre
The Marlowe Theatre is a major 1200-seat theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

 in Canterbury
Canterbury is a historic English cathedral city, which lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a district of Kent in South East England. It lies on the River Stour....

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...


It closed in March 2009 for redevelopment and a brand-new Marlowe Theatre re-opened to audiences on 4 October 2011.


It was named after the playwright Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. As the foremost Elizabethan tragedian, next to William Shakespeare, he is known for his blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his mysterious death.A warrant was issued for Marlowe's arrest on 18 May...

, who was born and attended school in the city. In front of the present theatre is a 19th-century statue of a Muse (Marlowe is known as the Muses' darling) surrounded by small effigies of characters from Marlowe's plays.

First building

The theatre previously occupied another site on St Margaret's Street, which was demolished in 1982.

Second building

The most recent building in The Friars was built in 1933 as the Friars Cinema, where on 11 May 1944 the film A Canterbury Tale
A Canterbury Tale
A Canterbury Tale is a 1944 British film by the film-making team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It stars Eric Portman, Sheila Sim, Dennis Price and Sgt. John Sweet; Esmond Knight provided narration and played several small roles. For the postwar American release, Raymond Massey narrated...

received its world premiere. It re-opened as a theatre in July 1984, an event marked by the reinauguration of the Canterbury Festival
Canterbury Festival
The Canterbury Festival is Kent's international festival of the arts. It takes place in Canterbury and surrounding towns and villages each October and includes performances of a variety of types of music, ranging from Opera and Oratorio to art, comedy and theatre...


The Marlowe Theatre closed for re-development in March 2009. The last performance in the building was a gala performance called A Night Of A Thousand Stars, which took place on Sunday, 22 March 2009.


Despite continued use and popularity, the converted cinema was a large space rather unsuited to a theatre. More seats were also needed to meet the demand for tickets, with popular shows regularly selling out months in advance.

Canterbury City Council was advised that an entirely new theatre would cost more than redeveloping The Marlowe on its existing site (there being no suitable alternative site available), and therefore decided in 2005 to give the go-ahead to a multi-million pound redevelopment of the theatre, with the working title
Working title
A working title, sometimes called a production title, is the temporary name of a product or project used during its development, usually used in filmmaking, television production, novel, video game, or music album.-Purpose:...

 of the New Marlowe Theatre Project.

The estimated cost was £23.5 million at 2008 prices. Parts of the current building were demolished, the auditorium gutted and two new auditoria (the main auditorium with 1,200 seats, stalls, slips, balcony and electronically adjustable acoustics; and The Marlowe Studio – a flexible space to accommodate a wide range of performances and creative activities, with around 150 seats), new catering facilities, a bar on each floor, a cafe and better access for the public, staff and theatrical companies (with lifts to all floors). The plans also make provision for more parking spaces for people with disabilities and a new, landscaped riverside walk outside. In March 2007 Keith Williams was announced as the chosen architect for the project.

Spectacular Views Of Canterbury

Visitor facilities have been greatly enhanced in the new theatre, with stylish bars on three levels and a theatre restaurant called The Riverside.

The Upper Circle Bar offers stunning views of the Cathedral and The City that cannot be seen from anywhere else in Canterbury. Showing the entire cityscape of this medieval city, this view is rapidly becoming a popular tourist spot.

The Opening Gala -4 October 2011

The Marlowe Theatre reopened to theatre audiences on 4 October 2011 with an Opening Gala attended by HRH Earl of Wessex which featured the Philharmonia Orchestra.

This was followed by a large-scale festival of free events and performances called My Marlowe, a weekend that was attended by many thousands of people over three days. The weekend include street theatre, music, children's shows and workshops. The event also included a stand-up comedy gig by Stephen Merchant, the first public performance on the main stage.


The main auditorium presents the biggest and best touring productions, made possible by the increased seating capacity of the new theatre. The programme of shows and performances
offers audiences a mixture of plays, musicals, ballet, contemporary dance, opera, stand-up comedy, orchestral concerts, music gigs and children's shows.

Some of the country's leading theatre companies and producers bring shows to The Marlowe Theatre including Northern Ballet Theatre, David Pugh, Theatre Royal Bath, Rambert Dance Company and Propeller Theatre Company.

From November 2012, Glyndebourne On Tour will be presenting opera productions at the venue for the very first time.

The venue has also attracted performances by leading music artists such as Van Morrison
Van Morrison
Van Morrison, OBE is a Northern Irish singer-songwriter and musician. His live performances at their best are regarded as transcendental and inspired; while some of his recordings, such as the studio albums Astral Weeks and Moondance, and the live album It's Too Late to Stop Now, are widely...

, Ray Davies
Ray Davies
Ray Davies, CBE is an English rock musician. He is best known as lead singer and songwriter for the Kinks, which he led with his younger brother, Dave...

, Suzanne Vega
Suzanne Vega
Suzanne Nadine Vega is an American songwriter and singer known for her eclectic folk-inspired music.Two of Vega's songs reached the top 10 of various international chart listings: "Luka" and "Tom's Diner"...

, Kate Rusby
Kate Rusby
Kate Anna Rusby is an English folk singer and songwriter from Penistone, South Yorkshire. Sometimes known as The Barnsley Nightingale, she has headlined various British national folk festivals, and is regarded as one of the most famous English folk singers of contemporary times...

, Richard Thompson and Jose Gonzalez
José González
José González is a Swedish-Argentine indie folk singer-songwriter and guitarist from Gothenburg, Sweden.González is also a member of Swedish band Junip, along with Elias Araya and Tobias Winterkorn.- Biography :...


The Marlowe Studio, a second 150-seat venue, presents a range of alternative performances and creative activity, broadening the range of performances that The Marlowe Theatre can present.

The Theatre Director is Mark Everett, who has previously run a number of regional theatre venues.


The Marlowe Theatre presents an annual pantomime which is one of the most popular in the country. In 2008/09 over 81,000 people attended Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, making it the most successful pantomime in the theatre's history. The production starred Emma Barton
Emma Barton
Emma Louise Barton is an English actress. She played Honey Mitchell in EastEnders from November 2005 to September 2008....

, Stephen Mulhern
Stephen Mulhern
Stephen Daniel Mulhern is a British TV presenter, entertainer, and former magician. He began presenting in the studio on CITV in May 1998 and became a leading presenter until he left in August 2002. He has presented a number of shows, including SMTV Live, Holly & Stephen's Saturday Showdown and...

, Dave Lee
Dave Lee
Dave Lee may refer to:* Dave Lee , British horn and Wagner tuba player associated with the Michael Nyman Band* Dave Lee , British DJ, producer, and remixer often better known as Joey Negro* Dave Lee...

, Ben Roddy, Valerie Cutko, Phil Holden, Ray Griffiths and others.

The Marlowe Theatre's pantomime is produced with Evolution Pantomimes, who produce a number of pantomimes across the country. The company is headed by Emily Wood and Paul Hendy. Past stars in Marlowe Theatre pantomimes have included Natalie Imbruglia
Natalie Imbruglia
Natalie Jane Imbruglia is an Australian singer-songwriter, model and actress. In the early 1990s, Imbruglia was known to audiences as Beth Brennan in the popular Australian soap Neighbours. Three years after leaving the programme, Imbruglia launched a singing career with the international hit,...

, Martine McCutcheon
Martine McCutcheon
Martine McCutcheon is an English singer, television personality and Laurence Olivier Award-winning actress. McCutcheon had minor success as one third of the pop group Milan in the early 1990s; however, it was her role as Tiffany Mitchell in BBC's EastEnders that made her a household name in the UK...

, Daniella Westbrook, Shelia Ferguson, Shaun Williamson
Shaun Williamson
Shaun Williamson is an English actor, singer, media personality and occasional presenter, best known for his former role as Barry Evans in soap opera EastEnders and as a version of himself in BBC sitcom Extras.- Career :...

, Daniel MacPherson
Daniel MacPherson
Daniel Donald MacPherson is an Australian actor and television presenter, best known for his roles as; Joel Samuels on Neighbours, PC Cameron Tait on British police drama The Bill, and Detective Senior Constable Simon Joyner in City Homicide...

, Robert Powell
Robert Powell
Robert Powell is an English television and film actor, probably most famous for his title role in Jesus of Nazareth and as the fictional secret agent Richard Hannay...

 and Lewis Collins
Lewis Collins
Lewis Collins is an English actor best known for his tough-guy role as Bodie in The Professionals. He was educated at Bidston Primary and Grange School in Birkenhead. He started out as a ladies' hairdresser before playing drums and guitar in pop groups. He had a number of other jobs before...


Whilst The Marlowe Theatre was being redeveloped the theatre decided to present its annual pantomime in a big-top theatre tent situated in central Canterbury, called The Marlowe Theatre Arena. In 2009, the pantomime presented was Peter Pan starring comedy actor Adrian Edmondson
Adrian Edmondson
Adrian Charles "Ade" Edmondson is an English comedian. He is probably best known for his comedic roles in the television series The Young Ones and Bottom , for which he also wrote together with his long-time collaboration partner Rik Mayall.-Early life:Edmondson, the second of four children, was...

, famous for roles in classic comedies such as The Young Ones and Bottom. Robin Hood followed in 2010, starring comedy actor John Thomson
John Thomson
John Thomson may refer to:*John Arthur Thomson , Scottish naturalist*John Charles Thomson , New Zealand politician*John Edgar Thomson , American civil engineer, railroad executive and industrialist...

 and CBBC TV presenter Sidney Sloane
Sidney Sloane
Sidney Sloane is a UK radio and television actor/presenterBorn Gary Gibson, he took the stage name Sidney Sloane when he changed career from stockbroking to study acting in 1997 in Brighton, England....


The pantomime for 2011 will be Cinderella, the first to take place in the new Marlowe Theatre. This will star John Partridge
John Partridge
John Partridge may refer to:*John Partridge , British portrait painter*John Partridge , English astrologer*John Partridge , English actor, singer and dancer...

 (Christian in EastEnders) as Prince Charming and television entertainer Stephen Mulhern
Stephen Mulhern
Stephen Daniel Mulhern is a British TV presenter, entertainer, and former magician. He began presenting in the studio on CITV in May 1998 and became a leading presenter until he left in August 2002. He has presented a number of shows, including SMTV Live, Holly & Stephen's Saturday Showdown and...

 as Buttons.

The Marlowe Youth Theatre

The Marlowe Theatre runs a highly popular programme of weekly theatre workshops for young people, in partnership with Wide Eyed Theatre company. In summer 2008 a large-scale youth theatre summer project called Lost Things took place, resulting in performances on the main stage of the Marlowe Theatre.

The Marlowe Youth Theatre now has a permanent home in The Marlowe Studio. A fully equipped theatre performance space, this has greatly increased the amount and range of work taking place with young people.

The Marlowe Friends

The Marlowe Friends, formed in 1992, now has over 11,000 members, making it the largest theatre friends membership scheme in the country. Members can take part in a highly popular programme of theatre events, outings and activities throughout the year.

Notable previous employees

Comedian Jon Holmes
Jon Holmes
Jon Holmes is a seven time Sony award-winning and double Bafta winning British writer, comedian and broadcaster.-Early life:...

 worked at the Marlowe as Deputy Chief Electrician in the late '90s, lighting and mixing shows including Aspects of Love, The Rocky-Horror Show and various pantomimes.

Radio presenter Gideon Coe
Gideon Coe
Gideon "The Guv'nor" Coe is a radio DJ, presenter, sportscaster, voiceover artist and journalist.Coe was one of the child presenters of the BBC 1 children's programme "Why Don't You?"....

 worked here as an usher in the late '80s. Coincidentally, both he and Jon Holmes
Jon Holmes
Jon Holmes is a seven time Sony award-winning and double Bafta winning British writer, comedian and broadcaster.-Early life:...

 now have shows on BBC 6 Music
BBC 6 Music
BBC 6 Music is one of the BBC's digital radio stations, was launched on 11 March 2002 and originally codenamed Network Y. It was the first national music radio station to be launched by the BBC in 32 years....


External links

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