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A successful first year for Canterbury's Marlowe Theatre

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Since opening in 2011, more than 325,000 people have attended an event at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre. In the main auditorium, more than 318,000 watched a performance, which is 11 per cent more than was originally predicted.

Average attendance per performance has increased by 26 per cent, from 710 to 897. (The national average for theatre attendance last year was 374). More people are coming to The Marlowe main house for the first time – nearly 40 per cent of audiences in the last year have been new bookers (Avenue Q saw the figure rise to 47 per cent).

Some of the other most successful productions, selling virtually 100 per cent of tickets, were Top Hat, Northern Ballet’s The Nutcracker, Midnight Tango, Porgy and Bess, Calendar Girls, and The Mousetrap. The first season of four concerts by the Marlowe’s resident orchestra, the Philharmonia, also sold out.

In the Studio, the creative space for community activity and new work, nearly 7,000 people have taken part in a workshop or attended an event. Attendance figures are just over 80 per cent, showing that an audience has been found for new work and creative activity. This includes an expanded Marlowe Youth Theatre, the prestigious Connections project with The National Theatre, and a new Marlowe Teacher scheme to encourage school visits.

This success is expected to continue in the next few weeks with sold out runs predicted for Glyndebourne Opera, Northern Ballet’s Beauty and the Beast and Chicago. The theatre has introduced a regular programme of access performances that have proved popular. Access consultant Sue Pellegrino said: “The Marlowe Theatre is one of the newest contemporary theatres in the UK. Luckily for the residents of Canterbury district, it is also one of the most accessible for both disabled patrons and performers.”

It’s not about the shows: more people than ever before have joined the Marlowe Friends scheme, which now has over 12,000 members (an increase of 23 per cent on the old theatre). A total of 54 permanent contracted staff and an additional 162 zero-hours staff now work at the theatre, and three new trainee positions have been introduced.

Of course, theatre is also about the night out and what people do when they get there. For example, 79,706 ice creams, 7,043 flashing pantomime wands, 7,206 cartons of popcorn, 18,000 glasses of wine, 12,000 bottles of beer, and 2,500 gin and tonics have all been sold!

Canterbury City Council’s executive member for culture, Cllr Darren Ellis, said: “It is wonderful to see that within just one year, The Marlowe Theatre has established itself as the successful, leading entertainment and arts venue for the region. It is attracting superb productions to Kent that we were never able to do previously, giving enjoyment to thousands. It is also enabling more people to get involved in the theatre from our community. This is just what the council and all those people who gave so much to make our new theatre a reality had been hoping for.”


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