Christopher Marlowe feature film in the works!

A new, epic feature film about Christopher Marlowe, perhaps best remembered as William Shakespeare’s friend and rival, is in the works from British crime film director Greg Hall and producer Gary Kurtz, who is best known for Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Marlowe, while a student at Cambridge University, becomes a spy for the crown and the greatest playwright of his day, but the much darker truth involves real-life intrigue, politics, religion and espionage. May 30th was the 425th anniversary of the tragic early death of Marlowe on this date in 1593, at the age of 29, which has long been assumed to have been because of a fight between friends over a bar bill. In reality, due to his involvement in secret affairs, he was assassinated as a matter of state policy.

The script, by Francis Hamit, details the Elizabethan-era poet and playwright’s other career as a spy for the Crown as part of the early English Secret Service that fought a bitter war with Catholics who wanted Elizabeth I assassinated and Mary, Queen of Scots, placed on the throne instead. Even after Mary was executed, the threat persisted and there was not a day for the rest of her life that Elizabeth did not fear death at Catholic hands. The result was one of the most oppressive tyrannies in history, as Elizabeth’s government sought to control every aspect of English life and culture through law and regulation and enforced the government’s policies through an extensive system of spies and censorship. Marlowe’s own rebellion included preaching atheism and openly bragging about his own homosexuality at a time when other men were burned at the stake for it.

The most famous playwright of his day, he was too well-known and popular to be tried and executed publicly; Queen Elizabeth ordered him secretly assassinated by his fellow secret service agents. Only recently have academic researchers uncovered the truth.

“Marlowe is a tragic figure, undone by his own fatal flaws,” Francis Hamit said. “Despite the passage of time, it is a story which will resonate with today’s audiences.”

Greg Hall added, “The storyline is quite dynamic. It’s more about the secret underworld of spies and criminals that Kit Marlowe embraced at the same time he was social climbing with very prominent men such as Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Walsingham, the Secretary of State, and the most powerful man in England. It is going to be a very exciting production and we are casting it now.”

Plans are to make the film mostly in Wales this fall. North American distribution has been assigned to Lightyear Entertainment in Los Angeles. Among Lightyear’s theatrical releases was Tanna, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2017.

Arnie Holland, Lightyear’s CEO, is an Executive Producer of the film. Other Executive Producers include Michael John Donahue and Craig Miller, CEO of Wolfmill Entertainment.

Director Greg Hall came to early notice with his breakthrough debut drama The Plague, made on a shoestring budget but eliciting the support of industry stalwarts such as Mike Leigh who awarded Hall the Katrin Cartlidge Foundation scholarship. He has gone on to make a name for himself as an independent filmmaker on the rise with six feature films under his belt and a growing domestic and international audience. Hall specializes in strong dramatic performances, visual flare and often a focus in the crime genre.

Producer Gary Kurtz is an American film producer whose list of credits includes American Graffiti, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Crystal and Return to Oz.

Writer Francis Hamit is a graduate of the world-famous Iowa Writers Workshop, has published two historical spy novels set at the time of the American Civil War and is working on a memoir about military intelligence during the Vietnam War. After Christopher Marlowe, his next project will be a film or limited-run television series about Belle Boyd, the protagonist in Hamit’s 2008 novel The Shenandoah Spy.


Canterbury Marlowe Day – May 2018

On a bright May morning we gathered in the foyer of The Marlowe Theatre and then made our way to The Marlowe Kit, where the Chairman, Professor Ken Pickering, informed us that Marlowe would have walked past the former Poor Priests’ Hospital, as his only extant signature was found in the building next door. Ken then read one of Marlowe’s lesser-known but charming poems: ‘I walk’d along a stream, for pureness rare.’ This was very fitting as The Kit is next to the river Stour, and we later threw flowers and rosemary into the water in his memory.

Music

One of the highlights of the day was listening to sections of Purcell’s ‘The Faerie Queen’ by the Marlowe Consort led by John Perfect. The libretto is an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but the music was used independently of the play during scene changes, as they didn’t normally raise the curtain between acts. The fairies were originally played by 8-year olds, and it was possible to imagine them dancing on the stage to the lively melody.

Acting Shakespeare by Frank Barrie

It was a real treat and a great pleasure to hear Frank Barrie give a talk about some of the highlights of his long and distinguished acting career. Frank has worked with the most iconic names in British theatre, starred in 36 productions of Shakespeare plays in 67 countries, was a leading member of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre Company at the Old Vic, and has made over 200 TV appearances.

Frank said that he admires Shakespeare because he expresses every emotion in the most beautiful and exact language, and his characters are so alive and real, more so than many people we meet. He particularly enjoyed playing Hamlet because everyone can identify with him. Similarly, the story of Macbeth’s rise and fall has connected with audiences in many places over the last 400 years. For example, Frank told us about his performance of Macbeth in Baghdad during the rule of Saddam Hussein. At first, the audience did not take the play very seriously; they were shouting, joining in, walking in front of the stage and responding to impressive acting points. However, when they realised what the play was about and how it related to their own lives, they went quiet and there was a huge applause at the end. The next day crowds of people arrived to see the performance, as word of its significance had spread quickly. Unfortunately, the secret police were in the audience this time, and the company was forbidden from performing the Scottish play again because it was considered to be too dangerous – a sign of the extraordinary power of Shakespeare to communicate with modern audiences.

On a lighter note, Frank gave a series of fantastic performances and entertaining anecdotes about an onstage swordfight that went wrong, a bomb exploding outside the theatre, and a collapsing bed!

Lunch

Lunch was served at an excellent restaurant in a peaceful riverside setting.

Grotowski directs Dr Faustus by Professor Paul Allain

Paul Allain started his informative talk by describing the different phases of the Polish film director’s career and the ideas behind his work, in particular ‘Poor Theatre’, which focuses simply on the relationship between the actor and spectator. Actors trained in this method concentrate less on techniques and more on revealing their true selves through the role.

Paul explained that people were astounded by Grotowski’s ground-breaking production of Doctor Faustus in 1963 and it received mixed reviews, with one British critic finding it ‘uncomfortable’. The 9 minute film of the play helped us to understand why it was so challenging: the rehearsals and performance were clearly very physically and emotionally taxing for the actors, and the spectators were in an intimate space with the protagonist, for example sitting at tables at Faustus’ Last Supper. Faustus was played as a blasphemous, Christ-like figure. The film captured the sinister atmosphere in the theatre, and many of us were struck by the way Mephistopheles was presented as an ambiguous mixture of male and female, good and evil. It is clearly still a very thought-provoking production!

Directing Edward II – a discussion with Ricky Dukes and Dr Geoff Doel

Ricky Dukes is the Artistic Director of the Lazarus Theatre Company and he recently directed Edward II at venues including the Greenwich Theatre. Many members of the Society had seen the performances, but there were photos for those who hadn’t. Ricky talked us through how the company made decisions about the staging of Marlowe’s history play, for instance the creative ideas they considered and rejected and the conversations about which sections to cut or include in the 90 minutes running time. They decided on a Brechtian design, set in the context of harsh, masculine, brutal England, and the relationship between Edward and Gaveston was portrayed in a sympathetic light.

Geoff Doel started the discussion by asking Ricky to explain some of his directing choices. Geoff disagreed with many of those choices, and this sparked a larger, robust debate with Ken, Jo and members of the audience. The discussion was essentially about ‘modern’ vs ‘traditional’ staging and interpretations, and it continued well after Marlowe Day had finished! Drama is based on conflict, so this was a very apt end to the day!

Event Gallery

Canterbury Marlowe Day - May 2018


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Hero and Her Paper Navy

Join Hero, an intrepid Elizabethan explorer, as she takes on a nautical adventure in search of new worlds, treasured words and long-lasting friendship. Based loosely on Christopher Marlowe’s epic poem, Hero and Leander, there is no better time to introduce today’s kids to yesterday’s masterpieces in a fun-filled educational journey.

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Canterbury Marlowe Day 2018

Canterbury Marlowe Day 2018

Saturday 12th May

Canterbury Marlowe Day 2018 will once boast an exciting programme of academic and theatrical speakers, including the great actor Frank Barrie, who played his first Shakespearean role in 1959. The day will also include the traditional laying of a floral tribute at the Marlowe Memorial outside the New Marlowe Theatre. Full details of the day’s itinerary and how to purchase tickets will be announced shortly.

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