Shakespeare returns to historic stage for first time since Covid

Cast rehearsing Romeo and Juliet for the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich

Cast rehearsing Romeo and Juliet for the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich - Credit: Maddermarket Theatre

A Shakespearean classic will be be given a modern twist in a bid to get punters returning to a community-run theatre. 

Actors and and production crews, who are all volunteers, from Norwich Players and University of East Anglia (UEA) are putting on Romeo and Juliet at the century-old Maddermarket Theatre in St Johns Alley from March 22-26.

Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich Credit: Denise Bradley

Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich - Credit: Denise Bradley

The production, which also has a Norfolk twist, will be the first time Shakespeare has been performed inside the non-profit business since the Covid lockdown in March 2020.

Laura Landamore, assistant stage manager of the production and theatre volunteer since 1998, said: "The Maddermarket Theatre is in the heart of the city. It has a community feel.

"The show has been modernised but we have to change with the times. Hopefully people will appreciate it and it will help us reach out to new audiences."

The Maddermarket Theatre, a former Roman Catholic chapel, opened in 1921 with the production The Merry Wives of Windsor when the in-house company, Norwich Players, was created.

An archive picture of the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich

An archive picture of the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich - Credit: Maddermarket Theatre

Ms Landamore, from Norwich, added that by 1933 the Norwich Players were the first company in the world to perform all Shakespeare's work.

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She added that the theatre was only a success because of its army of volunteers and encouraged people to get involved.

Director Immi Lea

Director Immi Lea - Credit: Maddermarket Theatre

Immi Lea, 27, writer and director of the show, who graduated from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in 2021 with a masters in scriptwriting, said: "I wanted to direct it as it's a play I've admired for a long time as a writer. We've got a real mix of performers.

"People say it's a timeless story which feels like a cliche to say but it's absolutely true. People fighting people, not listening to each other. 

"Just look at the world now - you don't have to look far to find that."

As well as current UEA students, the show includes university alumni.

Members of the Norwich Players being directed by director Tony Fullwood (right) for their The Merry

The Norwich Players being directed by Tony Fullwood (right) for their The Merry Wives of Norwich outdoor performance in 2021 - Credit: Maddermarket Theatre

Tony Fullwood, a Maddermarket Theatre trustee, said: "The last two years have been tough for all small arts venues.

"The Maddermarket is Norwich's community theatre so when we emerged from Covid-enforced closure last autumn we wanted to reinvigorate our community links."

The Maddermarket Theatre stage as it looks today

The Maddermarket Theatre stage as it looks today - Credit: Andrw Hawkins

To book tickets visit www.maddermarket.co.uk