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New Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury celebrates 10th anniversary


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Today marks 10 years since the new Marlowe Theatre opened in Canterbury.

A special gala, attended by Prince Edward, was held to mark the occasion on October 4, 2011, following a complete rebuild.

The old Marlowe Theatre before it was knocked down in 2009. Picture: Dave Asthouart
The old Marlowe Theatre before it was knocked down in 2009. Picture: Dave Asthouart
The 1930s building, formerly home to the Odeon Cinema, made way for a more modern theatre which opened in 2011
The 1930s building, formerly home to the Odeon Cinema, made way for a more modern theatre which opened in 2011
Construction of the new Marlowe almost complete in January 2011
Construction of the new Marlowe almost complete in January 2011
Prince Edward attends a gala opening night at the new Marlowe Theatre on October 4, 2011. Picture: Tim Stubbings
Prince Edward attends a gala opening night at the new Marlowe Theatre on October 4, 2011. Picture: Tim Stubbings

The original Marlowe was a converted Odeon cinema, dating from the 1930s.

By the mid-2000s, it had become clear the site needed to be redeveloped in order to meet the needs of modern touring companies and audiences.

In August 2008, the city council approved the £25m works - just weeks before the banking crisis caused a four-year economic downturn,

Thus the new Marlowe was constructed in the middle of one of the worst recessions for decades.

Yet the venue has boomed ever since opening its doors - even surviving a pandemic - and remains Kent's premier theatre.

Stars of the first ever panto at the new Marlowe - it would sadly be the legendary Dave Lee's last
Stars of the first ever panto at the new Marlowe - it would sadly be the legendary Dave Lee's last
Rastamouse and Da Easy Crew entertained the crowds during the theatre's opening weekend
Rastamouse and Da Easy Crew entertained the crowds during the theatre's opening weekend
The theatre's first wedding was held in November 2011, with husband and wife Hayley Mills and Lewin Hynes tying the knot
The theatre's first wedding was held in November 2011, with husband and wife Hayley Mills and Lewin Hynes tying the knot
Gareth Gates and Toyah Wilcox were among the panto stars in 2012. Picture: Wayne McCabe
Gareth Gates and Toyah Wilcox were among the panto stars in 2012. Picture: Wayne McCabe

Millions of people have come to watch some of the country's top comedians, musicals and plays.

Famous faces to have taken to the stage over the past 10 years include Stephen Mulhern, Shaun Williamson and Samantha Womack - all starring in the panto.

Just last month, world-famous illusionist Derren Brown brought his jaw-dropping act to the theatre.

The biggest show at the Marlowe has been War Horse - the most successful play in the National Theatre's history - which arrived in Canterbury in 2017.

But perhaps the star we would all most love to see again is Dave Lee, the venue's legendary panto dame, who died in January 2012 aged 64.

The tribute show to Marlowe legend Dave Lee. Tim Stubbings / Ian Pollen
The tribute show to Marlowe legend Dave Lee. Tim Stubbings / Ian Pollen
Family and friends around the statue of the late Dave Lee, unveiled in 2014
Family and friends around the statue of the late Dave Lee, unveiled in 2014

A tribute show to the much-loved comedian was held later that year.

Among those taking to the stage were Jim Davidson, Joe Pasquale, Bradley Walsh, Bobby Davro, Shaun Williamson, Toyah Wilcox, Emma Barton, Gerard Kenny and Jess Conrad.

Then in 2014 a bronze statue to the "country's most famous and respected panto dame" was unveiled outside the theatre.

The entire theatre industry was rocked by the pandemic last year - but the Marlowe looks set to draw audiences back, with some big shows lined up.

Jimmy Carr and Sarah Millican are both lined up to perform in the months ahead, while smash-hit shows like We Will Rock You and Les Miserables are also coming up.

Let's hope we can all look forward to another memorable 10 years at the Marlowe.

The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury (47954224)
The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury (47954224)

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