Walter Nugent Monck 1877-1958

Portrait Walter Nugent MonckWalter Nugent Monck was an English theatre director and founder of the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich.

He was born in Welsampton, Shropshire in 1877. The child of the curate of Welshampton, he was educated in Liverpool and at the Royal Acdemy of Music. In 1895, he abandoned his study of the violin in favor of acting. After some years with a regional touring company, he premiered in London in Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson's Beyond Human Power at the Ryalty Theatre in 1901.

That same year, he met William Poel, who would profoundly alter Monck's career. By 1902 Monck was stage manager for the Elizabethan Stage Society, learning to direct in Poel's revolutionary manner. In 1909, he directed a series of historical tableaus at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich. Thenceforth, his career centered on this beautiful city, although he occasionally returned to London, as he did in 1910 to manage Poel's production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona at His Majesty's Theatre. From 1910, and he produced a series of masques at Blickling Hall, Norfolk.

In 1911, he directed an amateur production of The Countess Cathleen which was seen by Yeats; Yeats subsequently invited Monck to become temporary director of the Abbey Theatre while Yeats and the main company toured the United States.

The same year, Monck formed a troupe of amateur players to produce mystery plays and morality plays. Out of this troupe came the Shakespearean company that, a decade later (after World War I service in the Royal Army Medical Corps), Monck housed in a renovated Catholic chapel which had once served as a baking powder factory. Monck named his theater after the rose madder plant that since medieval times had been used to dye Norwich cloth. Originally seating 220, the theater was expanded in 1953 to seat 324. Audiences viewed plays staged on a replica of a Renaissance stage, the first such permanent stage since before the English Restoration.

On this stage, Monck and his company kept up a steady stream of performance. The repertory, which changed at a rate of one per month, included all of Shakespeare's work, of course, as well as numerous other Renaissance plays and many modern works. By the early 1950s, he had produced over 200 plays. Despite his isolation from London, he was among the more influential mid-century producers. From the mid-30s on, he occasionally directed in London and Stratford.

Monck retired from his positions in 1952, but he remained intermittently active with the company until his death in 1958.

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The Monument

Monument  Walter Nugent MonckA simple plaque displaying quiet dignity of a theatrical giant of Norwich and innovator.for the wider stage is located in St John Maddermarket Church