Amateur status casts theatre in Cinderella role

The director of one of Norfolk's foremost theatres has likened it to a "penniless Cinderella" compared with the high profile and modernised Theatre Royal.

The director of one of Norfolk's foremost theatres has likened it to a "penniless Cinderella" compared with the high profile and modernised Theatre Royal.

Peter Sowerbutts, director of productions at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich, said the theatre would benefit from a similar cash injection from grant-awarding bodies but cannot qualify because of its amateur status, despite staging highly-rated productions and attracting audiences in to the city.

The Theatre Royal re-opened last week in a blaze of publicity after a major redevelopment of its auditorium, restaurant, bar and box office.

Describing the situation as "frustrating and upsetting", Mr Sowerbutts added that the Maddermarket's box office receipts do not cover the £13,000 monthly bill to keep the theatre open.

"A great deal of attention and publicity has, understandably, been devoted to the Theatre Royal's £10m modernisation programme, and its accompanying appeal," he said.

"Alas, at the Maddermarket we can only dream of the benefits that significant grant support from organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Arts Council might bring.

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"The Maddermarket employs a core professional staff working alongside a vast and talented army of volunteer members.

"It is a unique structure, but ultimately our 'amateur' status makes us ineligible for major grant support.

"Many theatregoers in Norwich and beyond might consider it a trifle ironic that so famous and highly-rated a theatrical institution as the Maddermarket should find itself cast as a penniless 'Cinderella' by comparison to our counterparts on Theatre Street. The truth is that it is frustrating and upsetting - especially as the Maddermarket continues to make as much room as possible in its programme for the kind of challenging productions which will not necessarily make big bucks at the box office."

Mr Sowerbutts spoke out as the theatre launched its brochure for shows and visiting productions during the first four months of 2008.

An adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility will be staged in January, followed by comedy Funny Money in February and the West End hit Art in March. Other highlights include Canterbury Tales, The Musical; an adaptation of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones and Caryl Churchill's Top Girls. Later in the year it will stage Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard, and John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.

Visiting shows include an Eric Clapton tribute; jazz singer Clare Teal; Brute Farce's version of Moll Flanders, and American vocal harmony group The Drifters.

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