It was an exciting moment for Kent when Canterbury’s new Marlowe Theatre opened its doors last year after a two and half year rebuild — the theatre’s third building in 35 years for those of us with long memories. Almost as exciting is the news that the Marlowe now has a growing and vibrant education department. Danny Lipman, in post for just a few weeks, is the theatre’s first ever Learning and Participation Officer. So, as a woman of Kent (by long adoption at least), I trotted off to find out what his plans are.
A former freelance practitioner — experience with Derngate and Royal, RSC, Hull Truck and many other companies and universities — Lipman’s first priority is to build up the Marlowe’s Youth Theatre. “It’s very small at the moment. But from September there will be four groups ranging from under 5 to 21,” he says. He has his eye firmly on Canterbury’s 40,000 residents and 44,000 students and is convinced he can get many more people involved very quickly. I promise to visit in late September to see the youth theatre in action and will write more about it later.
Lipman also has plans for a writing programme open to people of all ages. “We’ll look at different plays and experiment with writing them” he says, pointing out that Canterbury has a tradition of street theatre but that there isn’t much new writing coming out of Kent. He is also planning a Young Writers’ programme leading to a festival to showcase their work. “I see my twin themes as new writing and young people” he tells me.
And in view of that Lipman is understandably delighted that the Marlowe has been selected to be one of the 23 partner venues for the NT Connections programme next year.
This well established project involves the National Theatre commissioning short plays for and about young people from top notch playwrights. The 2013 list includes Howard Brenton, Jim Cartwright and Lenny Henry. The plays are then performed by local young people. These will be performed at The Marlowe in a festival on May 7,8,9 2013. “I’m thrilled about it because it complements everything we’re doing” says Lipman.
Yes it does. And I’m really looking forward to seeing some of this work. It’s a splendid venue and it’s good to know that it’s widening its remit.