Rachel’s Theatre Challenge reaches the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft
The Marina Theatre in Lowestoft is a bit like a cat with nine lives. Originally, in the 1870’s it was an ice-rink with a temporary stage, known as The Rink Theatre, it was then rebuilt and opened in 1897 as a proper theatre. With numerous pantomimes and summer shows it was a popular venue in a thriving seaside town. Like so many of our theatres, it was turned into a cinema in the 1930’s then, in the war, was a mortuary and evacuee centre, before closing as a cinema in 1984, ready for demolition.
Luckily for today’s theatregoers, the following year Waveney District Council saved it – with just 24 hours to go. Four years later it reopened, fully renovated and with new facilities and then it hosted shows by everyone from Rick Wakeman to Ken Dodd. In 2005 it became the residence of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 2011 it was the turn of the Marina Theatre Trust to come to the rescue, and take over the running of the theatre, with more improvements, including the café -bar and booking office, that opened in 2012.
The most recent challenge was the 2020/21 Covid restrictions that would prove the headache to the Marina Theatre Trust.
In June 2022, it was my first visit to the Marina Theatre and I didn’t know what to expect. There was a handy nearby surface carpark, and my pre-show jacket potato and a coffee in the theatre café, was served by a friendly and relaxed team.
“We’re still in the early stages of planning for upgrades and improvements which will form part of the development of the Cultural Quarter,” explained George Boundy,
Marketing and Communications Manager. “Key areas of improvement will include increasing accessibility to the top floors of the building via a new lift and increasing the size of the stage. This will allow us to programme a wider range of shows including touring musicals, which we know is what our audience want more of. Touring musicals and West End transfers have been getting bigger over the last few years which means their sets often won’t fit on our stage. We’re committed to maintaining the historical integrity of the building while making the Marina a viable and thriving Theatre well into the future. We have a mixed programme of music, drama, comedy, and community work which really reflects the broad interests of our audience. From 1 – 100 and from all walks of life, everyone’s welcome at the Marina”
Going to our seats, the theatre itself reminded me of a smaller version of the Regent Theatre in Ipswich, with an upstairs circle and proscenium arch-style stage. It is painted an eye-catching blue with original art-deco features.
Seating 775, seats in the stalls were almost full and my apologies to the friendly usher who was walking around with a ‘no-photographs’ sign. I really didn’t see him as I took a picture of the stage for this report! (I quickly switched it off and never intended to photo the show). It was also interesting to see clear signs saying whether we were allowed to stand and dance (yes in the stalls, but not in the circle or aisles). Actually of course, Simon and Garfunkel music is not really dance music, so it was not an issue, although nice to know for another time!
The Simon and Garfunkel Story. 17th June 2022
This West End hit is on tour (and will be in Felixstowe next weekend) so we were confident that a good night was ahead, although I was slightly dubious that it would be yet another tribute-act. I didn’t need to worry. Although the actor/musicians Adam Dickinson (playing Paul Simon) and Cameron Potts ( Art Garfunkel) looked slightly like them in build and hair, and sounded AMZINGLY like them, what we especially liked was that when narrating the story of Simon and Garfunkel’s career between songs, there was no attempt to put on American accents. They just told the story, backed up with archive films on the screen behind them… not just of the famous duo but also of the news reels (Martin Luther King, marches, Kennedy, the Vietnam War, protests, hippies, Flower Power etc) and TV adverts and clips from cowboy films etc.
We learnt how Simon and Garfunkel were at school together and, aged 14, formed a singing duo, called Tom and Jerry …and that Paul Simon was already writing songs. Inspired by the Everly Brothers, they developed their close harmony-style but early success faded away and they went back to their studies.
In 1963 they briefly started singing together again, in a folk style. A year later Paul Simon had success with his solo career and recorded The Paul Simon Songbook album. In America the Sound of Silence, was turned into rock-folk single by a producer, and topped the charts. Simon and Garfunkel reformed.
We were told the story behind the creation of hits songs like Scarborough Fair, Homeward Bound, and Mrs Robinson… and how disagreements, work pressures, and Art’s acting career, combined with Paul’s singer/songwriter success, meant that the duo was no more. That all changed with fundraising reunion concert for Central Park in 1981, a first world tour in 1982, and onwards until, in 2007, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
It was a really good night for anyone who loved their music. Backed by three excellent live musicians, Adam Dickinson and Cameron Potts exactly recreated the music of Simon and Garfunkel. Their voices and harmonies were spot on and, if you closed your eyes, it was Simon and Garfunkel you were listening too. I’d forgotten how good Paul Simon’s writing was.
The less well-known songs were warmly applauded by the audience, who definitely became livelier with the more well-known songs!
One of the encores was Bridge Over Troubled Water, sung mainly by Art of course. It was one of the best moments in a theatre I can remember. You could hear a pin drop as Cameron sung…. And the roof of the Marina Theatre was nearly lifted by the cheers as it ended.
Oh yes. ….and we sung in the car all the way home.
The Simon and Garfunkel Story: www.thesimonandgarfunkelstory.com
The Marina Theatre, Lowestoft www.marinatheatre.co.uk