Marlowe Theatre
The Marlowe Theatre is a major 1200-seat theatre in Canterbury, England. It closed in March 2009 for redevelopment and will re-open to audiences in October 2011.

It was named after the playwright Christopher Marlowe, 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 received its world premiere. It re-opened as a theatre in July 1984, an event marked by the reinauguration of the Canterbury Festival. 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 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.

Re-opening In October 2011
The Marlowe Theatre will reopen to theatre audiences in October 2011. The first season of shows will be announced in March 2011. The main auditorium will present the biggest and best touring productions, made possible by the increased seating capacity of the new theatre. The programme will include musicals, drama, dance, opera, ballet, pantomime, children's shows, comedy and music concerts of all kinds. The Marlowe Studio, a second 150-seat venue, will present a range of alternative performances and creative activity, broadening the range of performances that The Marlowe Theatre can present. Visitor facilities will also be greatly enhanced, with stylish bars on three levels and a theatre restaurant. The Upper Circle Bar will offer stunning views of the Cathedral and The City that cannot be seen from anywhere else in Canterbury.

Until 2009, and from October 2011, the Marlowe Theatre presents a mixed programme of shows and performances throughout the year offering audiences a mix of plays, musicals, ballet, contemporary dance, opera, stand-up comedy, music gigs and children's shows. Some of the country's leading theatre companies and producers regularly bring shows to the Marlowe Theatre including Northern Ballet Theatre, David Pugh, Theatre Royal Bath and Ellen Kent Opera. The venue has also attracted performances by leading music artists such as Van Morrison, Ray Davies, Suzanne Vega, Kate Rusby, Richard Thompson and Jose Gonzalez. 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, Stephen Mulhern, 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, Martine McCutcheon, Daniella Westbrook, Shelia Ferguson, Shaun Williamson, Daniel MacPherson, Robert Powell and Lewis Collins. 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, famous for roles in classic comedies such as The Young Ones and Bottom. Robin Hood followed in 2010, starring comedy actor John Thomson and CBBC TV presenter Sidney Sloane. The pantomime for 2011 will be Cinderella, the first to take place in the new Marlowe Theatre. Tickets will go on-sale in March 2011.

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. Once The Marlowe Theatre reopens, The Marlowe Youth Theatre will have a home in The Marlowe Studio. A fully equipped theatre performance space, this will greatly increase the amount and range of work taking place with young people.

The Marlowe Friends
The Marlowe Friends, formed in 1992, now has 10,000 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. The Marlowe Friends will be the first customers able to book for the first season of the new Marlowe Theatre when it goes on sale in March 2011

Notable previous employees
Comedian Jon Holmes 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 worked here as an usher in the late '80s. Coincidentally, both he and Jon Holmes now have shows on BBC 6 Music.

Building Activity

  • Ian Pearce
    Ian Pearce commented
    This building has been knocked down and replaced by new Theatre
    about 6 years ago via Mobile