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Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury could stage bigger West End shows if redevelopment approved

Larger-scale productions from the West End could take to the stage at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury if plans for a redevelopment are rubber-stamped.

Theatre bosses say they will be able to attract some of the biggest shows in the business and offer competition to rival venues in the capital.

Canterbury's Marlowe Theatre
Canterbury's Marlowe Theatre

Current space constraints at the city centre theatre are prohibiting some productions from agreeing to tour in Canterbury as the stage set-pieces cannot fit inside.

But plans have now been revealed for a redesign of the back yard that will offer wider loading areas and ramps to wheel props in and out.

Euan Maybank, the Marlowe’s director of technical and building services, said: “The shows we already have here are getting bigger and more complex - they fill up all the space we provide.

“We had others come to measure up and say they can’t quite fit their show in. So this new plan would really work well.

“It would create wider areas for bigger show props and set-pieces which come from the likes of the West End.

Euan Maybank
Euan Maybank

“It came to the point earlier this year that we started to plan ahead to ensure the Marlowe can keep up with change.”

Productions are currently constrained by the lack of a backstage cross over and storage space - meaning big showcases, which occupy the full depth of the stage area, are not able to operate as required.

Therefore, plans to build an acoustically sealed, weather-tight enclosure leading to the main loading bay dock have been designed.

The extra storage will free up performance space at the 1,200-seat venue and simplify the manoeuvring of equipment from trucks under a sheltered enclosure.

With the planning application now in the hands of Canterbury City Council, Mr Maybank is hopeful the proposals will be approved in the new year before work can begin in June.

How the rear of the theatre could look
How the rear of the theatre could look

The Marlowe has already penned dates in for hit West End musical Les Miserables to come to Canterbury in the autumn.

The month-long tour, which runs from September into October, is set to be just a taste of the bigger shows the theatre will soon attract.

Mr Maybank said: “We’ve got Les Mis coming and that’s about as big as you can get. So we will certainly be able to cater for more.

“We anticipate our audience to keep growing and for people in Kent to think twice about going to a show in London as we could offer the same shows.”

As well as production and storage benefits, Mr Maybank says the scheme will reduce noise for neighbours as the loading and unloading at night-time will be enclosed.

War Horse has previously come to Canterbury
War Horse has previously come to Canterbury

The theatre underwent a multi-million pound renovation at the turn of the decade and has become one the city’s biggest attractions.

More than 420,000 people visit each year, with the theatre saying Canterbury’s economy benefits from an extra £34 million as a result.

The Theatres Trust, a national advisory body for stage shows, is supporting the new proposals and praises the fact the Marlowe will be able to “handle a broader range of shows”.

A cost for the work has yet to be estimated.

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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