Former theatre chief executive pays tribute to Marney Meakin

Marney Meakin, when she was the front-of-house manager at Norwich Theatre Royal, pictured in the Dick Condon Gallery in 2000

Marney Meakin, when she was the front-of-house manager at Norwich Theatre Royal, pictured in the Dick Condon Gallery in 2000 - Credit: ARCHANT LIBRARY

She was known and loved by hundreds of volunteer ushers, colleagues and theatre audiences across Norfolk.

Now, friend and former colleague Peter Wilson has written about Norwich Theatre Royal's front-of-house manager, Marney Meakin, who died aged 82 earlier this month.

Peter Wilson, MBE Chief Executive of the Theatre Royal, Norwich. Photo: Jerry Daws.

Peter Wilson, MBE Chief Executive of the Theatre Royal, Norwich. Photo: Jerry Daws. - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2010

He said: "Marney ran the front-of-house for Laurence Olivier when his National Theatre was at the Old Vic, and subsequently for Peter Hall when the National moved to its new home on the Thames. 

"In a long career of caring for audiences, she was responsible for the health and safety of nearly 22 million theatergoers.

"She was born in Yorkshire and grew up in a strongly Methodist household. She was taken to the Matcham-designed Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield, where her passion for theatre was nurtured. She moved to London in 1958, where she worked in the Wedding Gifts Bureau at Harrods until the demands of a young family put paid to her work.

In 1967 her life took its decisive turn when she went to the Old Vic to see the National Theatre’s all-male production of As You Like It, starring Jeremy Brett, Derek Jacobi, Ronald Pickup, Robert Stephens, Charles Kay and a young Anthony Hopkins in the flapper-inspired role of Phoebe.

"Marney became an usher at the Old Vic and, for the next 18 years, as she rose to become front-of-house manager, she was to the public, actors and colleagues throughout the building the comforting and welcoming face of this great British institution.

Marney Meakin sitting on a chair during a Pilates class, participating

Marney Meakin during a Pilates class at The Garage, Norwich - Credit: ARCHANT LIBRARY

"She established the routine that still operates of ensuring that more than 2,000 audience members every night are comfortable and safe. Her most unexpected moment came at the opening of the new National when Peter Hall, momentarily forgetting the name of Richard Pilbrow, who was standing to his left, turned to his right and blithely introduced Marney to the Queen. 

Most Read

"Leaving in 1986, she went to Norwich as front-of-house manager at the newly revived Theatre Royal. Until she retired in 2003, she was in sole charge of hundreds of volunteer ushers as well as the coordination between the stage and the front-of-house that the audiences must never be aware of. 

"When she retired, she became the receptionist at The Garage, a youth-run arts training venue. She took classes, met friends, and managed a busy social and theatrical life until frailty and lockdown limited her horizon.

"She married Tony Meakin and had three children. She died on December 5."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter