The Marlowe
Artist Ben Dickson creates a unique audience of Kent legends, ready for our reopening

Artist Ben Dickson creates a unique audience of Kent legends, ready for our reopening

We have commissioned artist Ben Dickson to help prepare for our socially-distanced re-opening, by creating a unique audience of Kent characters in our auditorium.

The Marlowe team are now making plans to reopen our main auditorium, following the government’s announcement of the roadmap out of lockdown. We are planning to present socially-distanced shows at the earliest opportunity, from June. Full details of our re-opening programme are set to be announced in the next few weeks.

Whitstable-based portrait artist Ben Dickson was challenged to create 50 portraits in under a month, to fill the unusable seats around the auditorium. Each image is an individual work of art. Together they do away with the need for intrusive signage and create an amusing and surprisingly animated life-sized audience.

Showcasing the richness and variety of Kent’s cultural life and history, the cut-outs feature an eclectic mix of artists, actors, musicians, dancers, directors, writers, comedians, politicians and historical characters.

They include Jane Austen (who can be seen sitting next to Shane McGowan of The Pogues), Tracey Emin (seated between Mick Jagger and Christopher Marlowe), The Clangers (created by Canterbury film-makers Oliver Postgate and Peter Fermin), poet Lemn Sissay (Canterbury’s former Poet Laureate) and, lurking at the back of the auditorium, the Rt Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg MP in a recreation of his infamous lounging position last seen during the parliamentary debates on exiting the European Union.
Once the period of socially distanced performances comes to an end, the cut-out portraits will be made available for sale. The cut-outs were made by Walker Construction, who are also based in Kent.

Deborah Shaw, our Chief Executive, said:
“We didn’t want our audiences coming back to an empty-looking auditorium with no atmosphere and lots of rules and regulations. Ben’s cut-out characters work brilliantly and add to the fun – you don’t know who you might end up sitting next to! More seriously, I love that he’s created a unique artwork that is greater than the sum of its parts. Somehow it reflects the creativity, ingenuity and sense of community that theatre is all about.”

Ben Dickson, the artist behind the illustrations said:
“I loved creating the cut-outs and creating such a diverse mix of audience members for The Marlowe’s auditorium. Despite the challenge of creating 50 portraits in one month, this has been a dream job for a portrait artist.”