IN 1894 the Marine Theatre was born on the water’s edge in Lyme Regis and this year a whole array of events and fundraising is being held for the beloved arts venue that has been at the centre of the town’s cultural and social life for 125 years.
Celebrations have already got underway and this month the Marine will stage ‘The Lyme Regis Revue’, in which cultural groups from the community are joining forces for a variety show like none other. Four performances of the show will be held from Thursday, June 20 to Saturday, June 22.
Also this month, on June 16, there will be a free community screening of the 1949 classic film ‘All Over The Town’, which was filmed in Lyme Regis and features the Marine Theatre several times.
In July, Sir Ian McKellen will appear in a sold-out fundraiser at the Marine for a youth theatre project and to refurbish the dressing rooms, and in December theatre patron Andrew Rattenbury – the Lyme-born screenwriter for many of television’s greatest hits such as ‘Eastenders’ and ‘Doc Martin’ – is writing a special play focussing on the Marine Theatre as at the heart of the community.
Other theatre patrons are also supporting the fundraising efforts, with chef Mark Hix MBE having already held his recent book launch at the Marine and Deep Purple rock star Ian Gillan funding the venue’s new website.
Supporters are also being asked to contribute by ‘adopting a year’ from the Marine’s 125-year history for £125, for which they’ll receive a number of benefits include an invite to an anniversary party to be staged later in the year.
In 1894 the Marine opened as the Drill Hall. Primarily it was a place of entertainment and training for the military, such as the Lyme Regis Musical and Literary Society’s monthly entertainments.
In the 1930s it was a cinema and the art deco front was built, which remains an iconic landmark for the Dorset coast today.
During the war American troops used the Marine as a place to eat and entertain, with James Cagney and Joe Louis believed to have performed here.
Later in the 1940s and 50s, it was used by professional theatre companies for ‘Seaside Summer Seasons’. Posters from the time describe family entertainment, comedian, cabaret, and soprano singing – the entertainment was varied.
The Marine Theatre was bought by the then Lyme Regis Borough Council and refurbished in 1962, with the upper circle replaced with a bar.
The swinging 60s reached Dorset as the Marine became a dance hall and London promoter Bob Alexander brought acts down every Saturday for his popular ‘Big Beat’ nights. Acts included The Searchers, The Swinging Blue Jeans, and The Troggs.
The Marine was also the destination for huge jazz acts such as Acker Bilk, Chris Barber, and Kenny Ball. In the 1970s Fleetwood Mac and Status Quo performed at the Marine.
In 2001 the people of Lyme Regis voted in a referendum for the Marine to be taken over by an independent charity, and today the Marine is run by the LymeArts Community Trust.
Recent years have seen a resurgence with acts such as This Is The Kit, Tom Allen, Jethro and Alabama3 all appearing at the venue.
For more details on the Marine Theatre and all celebratory events taking place this year, visit www.marinetheatre.com