Norwich actor returns to Chekhov play after 40 years

David Newham with Matthew Tucker and Elizabeth Morgan playing Sorin, Medvedenko and Masha in the 201

David Newham with Matthew Tucker and Elizabeth Morgan playing Sorin, Medvedenko and Masha in the 2013 Maddermarket production of The Seagull. - Credit: Norwich

Forty years ago David Newham trod the boards at the Maddermarket Theatre in the classic play The Seagull.

Flashback to the Maddermarket's 1973 production of The Seagull, with David Newham, left, as Medveden

Flashback to the Maddermarket's 1973 production of The Seagull, with David Newham, left, as Medvedenko, and Diane Goldsmith, as Masha. - Credit: submitted

This month - after performing almost 100 plays at the Norwich venue - he is once again appearing in the Chekhov play about love, loss and art.

First time around Mr Newham played the downtrodden schoolteacher Medvedenko, and the audience watching the current production will see him take on the role of Sorin, the owner of the country estate where the play takes place.

Mr Newham, now 70, said: 'The hair looks a bit different, but it really does seem like yesterday. That's because Chekhov's play is timeless and because the Maddermarket has remained such a lively place.'

He said the current production, directed by Stephen Picton, respects the integrity of the Chekhov play along with including some interesting new ideas to breathe new life into it.


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About his latest character, Sorin, Mr Newham said: 'He's a wonderful character to play. In fact they are all fascinating. There are no bit parts, it's a great ensemble piece in which the psychological journey of the characters drives it along.

'That's what Chekhov did to change the theatre. Psychology replaces plot as the driving force.'

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Mr Newham, who is now retired and lives in Britannia Road, Norwich, first performed at the Maddermarket in 1966 after arriving in Norwich as a young journalist from north Derbyshire. He worked for the Evening News and Eastern Daily Press, and retired as systems editor 10 years ago.

He has appeared in nearly 100 plays at the Maddermarket Theatre, including other Chekhov plays such as Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard, as well as shows by other major playwrights such as Ibsen, Shakespeare, Samuel Beckett and Alan Ayckbourn.

'I have always loved the theatre. I feel more alive when I am in the theatre,' he said.

'It's no exaggeration that discovering the Maddermarket all those years ago was one of the most influential events in my life.

'Along with its lively sense of creativity, the theatre has a tremendous sense of tradition and continuity. One example of this is that the actor playing Sorin in the 1973 production was an actor who had worked with the Maddermarket's founder Nugent Monck since the 1930s. His name was Billy Wells, known not just as an actor but as a Norwich antiques dealer.

'This time round it's me whose reached doyen status; but I'm sure that some of the youngsters in today's cast will be around in 2050, keeping up the Maddermarket's great creativity and continuity.'

• The Seagull is at the Maddermarket Theatre until Saturday, November 30. To book call the box office on 01603 620917. Visit www.maddermarket.co.uk

• Do you have a story about the arts in Norwich? Email arts correspondent Emma Knights at emma.knights@archant.co.uk

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