New season: Maddermarket Theatre

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor Norwich’s much-loved Maddermarket Theatre is celebrating a £70,000 improvement programme with one of its best-ever seasons. Trevor Heaton previews the autumn goodies.


Nestling behind St John Maddermarket Church in the heart of historic Norwich, the Maddermarket Theatre is unique among local entertainment venues for building its season around its renowned in-house drama presentations.

In recent years the St John's Alley venue has broadened its appeal with a series of touring concerts and other attractions which complement its intimate ambience.

And talking about ambience, theatregoers will be enjoying the benefit of a new temperature control system which automatically keeps the auditorium at a comfortable temperature - to keep air moving and dehumidify it.

This will do away with the problems the theatre had, especially in the Gallery where temperatures have risen on occasion to more than 100F.

Now all the hot stuff will be strictly on stage - which leads us nicely to the new season…

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The season gets under way on September 5 with one of East Anglia's most popular entertainers - Winston the Singing Farmer. His light-hearted songs and humour have won him legions of fan across the region and beyond (tickets £8, concs £6.50).

Celebrate the unrivalled musical legacy of the Fab Four the following day with the acclaimed tribute act the Backbeat Beatles. Using replicas of the band's instruments, costume changes and make-up, the group re-create music from the Beatles' earliest beat days to their post-psychedelic anthems (£15).

From the music of yesterday to one of the rising stars of today, one of Britain's most acclaimed R&B and soul singers Terri Walker. Her concert (September 7, £10) will feature songs from her widely-praised album I Am and more.

Talking about soul, the legendary The Real Thing - still featuring the original three singers, brothers Chris and Eddy Amoo and Dave Smith, plus their own band - are one of the greatest British exponents of the genre through such classics as Can You Feel the Force?, Can't Get By Without You and, course, You to Me Are Everything. They will be appearing at the Maddermarket on September 8 (£16).

North Norfolk Chamber Opera are at the venue on October 4-5 to present a double bill each night. Pastyme with Good Company is a royal entertainment of song and dance, while The Song in the Blickling Garden - which was premiered last month - is Geoff Davidson's new short opera about the trial of doomed queen Anne Boleyn. All seats £12.

Sid Kipper beams down to the venue from the planet St-Just-Near-Trunch on October 6 with his unique blend of song, humour and parody. He'll be taking the audience on a unique trip round the year with stories, songs and sayings (£10, concs £8).

Songs for the show will be featured by popular vocal group the Upper Octave, who are celebrating their 10th anniversary. Crazy For Musicals will run (with different programmes) on October 7 and 8 with the spotlight on the cream of musical theatre (£7).

No Maddermarket season would be complete without the Locrian Ensemble, who play the first of three autumn appearances on October 9. The theme is Russia by Candlelight and the ensemble (dressed, as ever, in period costume) will play the cream of that country's great music tradition, with works by Rachmaninov, Borodin and Tchaikovsky, with the finale being the powerful 1812 Overture. The ensemble return on November 30 and December 1 with Carols by Candlelight (tickets £12.50).

Lionel Bart's legendary musical Oliver! is packed with great songs and has been a crowd-pleaser since its very first performance. Norfolk Youth Music Theatre presents their production of the Dickensian favourite from November 1-4 (matinee on final day). Tickets £7, concs £5.

One of the legendary names of the Sixties British rhythm and blues scene, Georgie Fame, is in concert on November 27. With 20 albums and 14 hit singles - include number ones Yeh Yeh, Getaway and The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde - Fame has also collaborated with fellow legends of the calibre of Van Morrison and Eric Clapton. Expect an evening of foot-tapping - and crowd-pleasing blues and jazz. Tickets (£15).

'Rockney' duo Chas and Dave have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, buoyed by an appearance at Glastonbury, no less, and they are making a quick return to the Maddermarket after they went down a storm last year. November 28's show will include plenty of their favourites such as Rabbit Rabbit and Ain't No Pleasing You (tickets £16).

Still on the subject of Daves… but this one is a home-spun variety. Dave Chisnell, the chap behind Norwich's famous Ghost Walk, will be at the theatre the following night for An Evening with Ghostly Dave. It'll be spooky! Seats £7.50, concs £6.

Political journalist John Sergeant became one of the most famous faces at the BBC and then ITN for decades with his on-the-spot reporting of conflicts and politics. And you'll also know John for his deadpan humour on shows such as Have I Got News for You, Room 101, and The News Quiz. All of which will make his appearance on November 30 a fascinating evening (£14).

Brass band lovers will relish the visit of the famous Yorkshire Imperial Urquhart Band on December 2. With many awards under their belt, the band are regulars on Radio 2's Listen to the Band and their sound will be stunning in the Maddermarket. Tickets £14.

Tribute act Buddy Holly and the Cricketers pack theatres up and down the country with their performances of the music of the bespectacled rock'n'roll legend. It'll be Norwich's turn on December 3 with their celebrated seasonal show Holly at Christmas. Tickets £12.50.

The theatre's in-house drama productions have been entertaining Norfolk audiences for decades and the new line-up once again features a balanced programme providing something for all tastes.

Joe Orton's outrageous black comedy What the Butler Saw has a limited run from August 8-13, followed from August 24-September 2 by Emlyn Williams' edge-of-the-seat 1935 psychological thriller Night Must Fall.

The Happiest Days of Your Life (September 21-30) is John Dighton's much-loved classroom comedy, while Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe's The Tragical History of Dr Faustus is his celebrated exploration of evil. It will run from October 19-28.

Passions run hot in the Deep South in Tennessee Williams' legendary melodrama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (November 16-25), while the family show for Christmas is a stage version of Frances Hodgson Burnett's much-loved The Secret Garden (December 16-January 2).t Plays do not run on Sundays (except for a 4pm show for What the Butler Saw), and there is a matinee on the final Saturday of each run. Contact the box office for details about performance times and dates for The Secret Garden. Tickets £10 and £8 for the plays.

t Box office: 01603 620917. Email: Website:

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