New season: Maddermarket Theatre

Those in-house productions remain at the heart of the programme, but in recent years theatre staff have been keen to broaden the base of the venue’s appeal by seeking out high-quality touring attractions.

The Maddermarket - founded off St John's Alley in 1927 by the delightfully-named Nugent Monck - has a unique place in the city's theatrical history, with its professional-looking amateur productions proving a winning formula for generations of Norwich folk.

Those in-house productions remain at the heart of the programme, but in recent years theatre staff have been keen to broaden the base of the venue's appeal by seeking out high-quality touring attractions.

The autumn brochure features plenty more of those. The fun starts on September 2 with The Sinatra Years, featuring Todd Gordon and quartet. Backed by some excellent musicians (including that fine saxophonist Alan Barnes), Todd presents some of the classics made popular by Ol' Blue Eyes (all seats £12).

In contrast, the next day sees the toe-tapping return of Lightin' Willie and the Poor Boys Blues Band with another storming evening of music in prospect (£9, concs £7.50).


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That classic California surf sound is re-created with Beach Boys Inc on September 28, bringing oodles of hits such as California Girls and Surfin' USA which will make you feel as if you have sand between your toes! (£10).

Poet Laureate Andrew Motion returns to Norwich on September 29 for an evening featuring some of his published and new works and also talking about what it means to hold the post (£12, with a schools performance on September 30 at 10am, £6).

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The Nick Ross Orchestra is no stranger to East Anglia, and their visit on September 30 with classic big band tunes of the 1940s is bound to be a popular one (£14).

Prepare for chills galore on October 1 when the New Fisher Theatre Company brings to life (gulp!) a 1930s radio version of Bram Stoker's classic horror story Dracula (£8.50).

Maddermarket favourites the Locrian Ensemble are back the next day for their umpteenth visit, this time featuring some of the best-loved music of a composer who needs no introduction: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The concert will be performed, as usual, in 18th century costume for extra authentic flavour. All seats £12.50. The ensemble also returns with a festive programme on December 3 and 4.

If you're looking for spectacle, then you have your wish - and then some - on October 4 when the popular Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers team up with Japanese dance, voice and drum ensemble Hanayui for a visual and aural spectacular (£12.50).

Jethro Tull fans will snap up tickets for a rare appearance by one of the founders of that iconic Sixties band - Mick Abrahams. The ace guitarist brings his band Blodwyn Pig (remember Ahead Rings Out?) to the venue on October 5, sharing the bill with talented young folk group Tiny Tin Lady (£10).

More Sixties-style guitar the next night, this time in the hands of the very popular tribute act Classic Clapton - which aims to do exactly what it says on the tin (£11).

Families should make a date for the venue on October 7 for Magic Live!, which brings together three top illusionists in a fast-moving show. Magical entertainer Eugene Matthias joins forces with escapologist Rodan and children's favourite Andy Rice (£10, concs £8).

Much-loved Norfolk broadcaster, author and all-round good egg Keith Skipper brings his Press Gang to the venue on October 8 with A Mardle at the Maddermarket (all seats £9.50).

Talented young performers the Norfolk Music Youth Theatre are back on the Maddermarket stage from November 2-5 with the funny, tuneful and moving The Vackees, set in a Somerset village at the start of the second world war (£7, concs £5).

The gentle humour of former Yorkshire schools inspector Gervaise Phinn has brought him thousands of fans for his best-selling tales of life in the Yorkshire Dales. So tickets for his hilarious evening at the Maddermarket on November 29 (£14.50) will be in heavy demand.

The Dylan Project (November 30, £13) is an exploration of the songbook of a certain Robert Zimmerman in the capable hands of Steve ('Tulane') Gibbons, PJ Wright on steel guitar, plus Fairport's Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg and Gerry Conway.

Sid Kipper brings his Christmas Cod Pieces to the venue on December 1 for a popular show which will have you in the seasonal mood - and in stitches (£10, concs £8).

Another Christmas tradition - ghost stories - is brought to the stage the next day in the capable hands of Dave Chisnell in An Evening With Ghostly Dave (£7.50, concs £6).

All the above shows are 7.30pm.

Turning to the theatre's in-house productions, there's a well-chosen quartet of productions from the pen of Alan Bennett, Arthur Miller, Lewis Carroll and one W Shakespeare, Esq.

Single Spies (September 15-24, not September 18) is Bennett's superb play about the veils of deceit around the notorious spies Anthony Blunt and Guy Burgess. Tickets £9 and £7.

The most popular Shakespeare play ever written? Romeo and Juliet must be a leading contender for that honour, with its timeless story of tragic love amid bitter family rivalry. The theatre's greatest love story comes to the Maddermarket from October 20-29 (not October 23, £9/£7).

Arthur Miller's status as a colossus of 20th century drama - and his special affection for and from Norwich - is reflected in the choice of his brilliant Death of a Salesman (November 17-26, not November 20, £9/£7). The play - recently given a successful West End revival - tells the story of salesman Willy Loman in a powerful and moving take on “the American Dream”.

The Maddermarket always eschews the obvious panto as its Christmas production, choosing instead to run family dramas. This year's production is Jonathan Meddings' adaptation of two of the best-loved children's stories of all time - Alice in Wonderland.

Join Alice as she follows the White Rabbit (and goes through the Looking Glass) and meets such characters as the Cheshire Cat, March Hare, Humpty Dumpty and the terrifying Queen of Hearts! The production will run from December 17 to January 1 (not December

24-25).

Brochure and box office: 01603 620917

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