A Year of Success for the Marlowe Theatre


The Marlowe Theatre is celebrating its first anniversary – and record audience numbers.

Since opening a year ago today, more than 325,000 people have attended an event at the theatre. In the main auditorium, more than 318,000 watched a performance, which is 11 per cent more than was 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. And in The Marlowe Studio, the creative space for community activity and new work, nearly 7,000 people have taken part in a workshop or attended an event.

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).

In The Marlowe Studio, this figure is even higher at 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.

Some of the most successful productions in the main auditorium, 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.

Sell-out one-nighters included Stephen Merchant, Sarah Millican, Jools Holland and An Evening of Burlesque. The first season (four concerts) by The Marlowe’s resident orchestra, the Philharmonia, also sold out.

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 here! 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.

“And 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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