Maddermarket Theatre prepares for autumn reopening

The Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley

The Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

A unique theatre which is celebrating its centenary year is hoping to connect more with the community when it reopens this autumn.

The Maddermarket Theatre on St John's Alley in Norwich, owned and run by the Norwich Players, hopes to open in September since stopping performances in March last year because of the coronavirus lockdown.

Despite being able to legally reopen after the government lifted restrictions on May 17, Rob Tiffen, chair of the board of trustees, said the theatre was postponing its shows and projects to protect its volunteers and supporters.

Mr Tiffen said: "As the government's roadmap was announced it became clear a plan to open in September might be reasonable. We are an unusual animal. We are not a full-blown commercial entity. We are essentially an amateur theatre that owns its building. We have got to be careful and prudent with what we do in regards to our financial position. We rely on volunteers that are potentially vulnerable."

Rob Tiffen, chair of the board of trustees at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich.

Rob Tiffen, chair of the board of trustees at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich. - Credit: Sophie Wyllie

The theatre charity wants to put on an outdoor performance in August, and the chair of trustees was hopeful the main reopening would coincide when people's appetite for theatre returns.

He added: "The building is unique because, other than the Questors Theatre in London, there are no other amateur companies in the UK that operate on the same scale as the Maddermarket.

"People are desperately loyal to the theatre. It has a strong community."

Mr Tiffen, a professionally trained actor turned solicitor, said he and other board members were keen for the theatre to feature more community theatre groups, schools and projects, when it reopens.

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"We want more new people coming to the Maddermarket Theatre because it is at the heart of the city," said Mr Tiffen.

He believed the coronavirus lockdown allowed the venue to review its future but admitted it was awful having to make the small team of permanent staff redundant last autumn.

The 43-year-old, from Brooke, was positive about the theatre's future and the board was looking to rehire new staff, but not as many as were previously employed.

After reopening, the theatre will run at a quarter of its usual capacity - 300 - until Christmas to keep people safe.