It’s been a busy year for Oxford Playhouse, with our productions appearing all over the county, country and even in America!
The first half of 2019 saw the continuation of our 80th Anniversary programme, with two more OP80 co-productions: OP Associate Artist Barney Norris’s world premiere adaptation of The Remains of the Day, co-produced with Royal and Derngate and Out of Joint; and an electrifying co-production of Richard III, with Tom Mothersdale as Shakespeare’s iconic villain, presented in partnership with Headlong, Alexandra Palace, Bristol Old Vic and Royal and Derngate (again!). These two shows toured extensively over the UK, garlanded with great reviews – regional theatre at its very best.
Meanwhile, it was a delight to welcome our brilliant 17|25 Young Company back to the Main Stage in the Spring with their vibrant ensemble production of Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn, the flagship production in our annual Young Players Festival.
Over the summer the Playhouse Plays Out tent toured once again, taking The History of Everything to every corner of Oxfordshire. Over 6,000 came to see this sixty-minute hurtle through history, and enjoy the crafts and activities on offer. Last year’s tent show One Small Step (about the space race) embarked on a further tour of the UK before a whistle-stop visit to the US, playing in venues including Purdue University, where NASA’s Kennedy Centre astronauts are trained.
2019 saw the 4th year of Offbeat, our festival of new work presented in partnership with Arts at the Old Fire Station, which for the first time offered a programme of support for six artists all at early stages of their careers.
In August, we headed up to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, to present our inaugural Fringe season with three pieces of new writing from artists nurtured through our Artist Development programmes – Doug Crossley, Hidden Track and Kuumba Nia Arts.
To complete the year, we have another wonderful Christmas show coming to the Burton Taylor Studio - The Jolly Christmas Postman, which we have co-produced with Story Pocket Theatre. We’re excited to bring this timeless Christmas tale to life in a brand new show full of puppetry, music and magical storytelling.
And of course, the pantomime you’re about to see is always homegrown, produced by Oxford Playhouse and very much Made for Oxford. Nearly 40,000 see it every year and we love sharing this festive production with so many people. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
The year began by marking the centenary celebrations of partial suffrage for women. We commissioned On The March, a new piece by Clare Bayley, a Playhouse Playmaker alumni, for our 17|25 Young Company. This promenade piece took place in partnership with Oxford Town Hall and followed the progress of the Women’s Rights movement over the past century.
Throughout the Spring and Summer, we revived the Playhouse Plays Out Tent and One Small Step to tour to schools, attractions and parks across Oxfordshire. Over 4,500 people came to see this madcap run through the space race. The tent also provided oodles of space-themed crafts and activities to entertain the whole family.
We also continued with existing collaborations whilst building new ones. Offbeat, our festival collaboration with Arts at the Old Fire Station, entered its third year and for the first time we had acts on the Oxford Playhouse mainstage, in Gloucester Green and in a circus tent. As part of our 80th Birthday celebrations, we were co-producing partners on Othello with English Touring Theatre and Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, Women in Power with Nuffield Southampton, and Wise Children with Emma Rice’s new company and The Old Vic. 2019 sees upcoming 80th Birthday co-productions – Remains of the Day and Richard III.
Alby the Penguin Saves Christmas was our BT Christmas show, co-produced with Reading Rep. Last year’s Christmas production, A New Coat for Christmas, swapped homes with Alby and was performed at Reading Rep. Steve Marmion's Dick Whittington rounded off the year with an audience of over 35,000 people.
OP Productions started 2017 with a production of Every You Every Me, written by Associate Artist Barney Norris and co-produced with Reading Rep, which toured schools around Oxfordshire and Berkshire. The play explored the experiences of those coping with mental health issues within the education system, and how that changed as they left it. As part of the Young Player’s Festival, our 17|25 Young Company staged a ensemble interpretation of Jane Eyre. Our Easter show was the wonderful How to Hide a Lion, based on the best-selling book by Helen Stephens and produced in partnership with Polka Theatre, which played to a completely sold out audience.
Over the summer, our 2016 co-production of Sand in the Sandwiches, starring Edward Fox, went on a second national tour including a short run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the West End. Back at home, we joined forces with Arts at the Old Fire Station to bring back Offbeat for its second year. The festival returned bigger and better, with 73 shows over 10 days across the two venues. We showcased the best in new theatre, dance, spoken word and comedy, and presented exciting performances from Oxfordshire’s best emerging musicians alongside BBC Introducing.
In the Autumn we presented The Man I Live With, alongside Deer Hunter Collective and Reading Rep. This intricate verbatim piece explored the relationships between soldiers returning from war and their partners, and came to the BT in September. To round off the year we presented A New Coat for Christmas in the BT Studio, a collaboration with Evolve artists Flintlock. Our mainstage pantomime was Jack and the Beanstalk - our third pantomime written and directed by Steve Marmion.
2016 saw a summer of 'firsts' and new collaborations for OP Productions. We joined forces with Oxford Contemporary Music on Furious Folly, a remarkable and evocative large-scale outdoor performance which was part of 14-18 NOW, the UK-wide arts programme to mark the First World War centenary. We also worked with Arts at the Old Fire Station on Off Beat, a brand new festival of work not seen before in Oxfordshire, curated across the OFS and the Burton Taylor Studio. In August, presented Peter Pan in Scarlet, the world premiere stage adaptation of the official sequel to JM Barrie's Peter Pan, a co-production with the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and in association with the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity. Finally, the Playhouse staged the world premiere of Sand in the Sandwiches, starring Edward Fox, which told the story of John Betjeman’s life and included many of his most loved poems. The show was a co-production with Oliver Mackwood Productions, and went on to a hugely successful regional tour.
We also increased our work with and for young people and the community. OP Productions kicked off the year by bringing Hello Oxford, our cabaret inspired collaboration with the Museum of Oxford, to care homes and sheltered accommodation around the county. We launched our inaugural Young Players festival in March, which saw children and young people from across the city presenting their own writing on the main stage, alongside our 17|25 Young Company production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Easter saw the third of Toby Hulse's much-loved trilogy for little children, Bed Time, open at the Burton Taylor Studio before embarking on a national tour and London run. The fourth year of our Evolve Artist in Residence scheme also began in April, and we are delighted to have Chris Bush & Matt Winkworth, Justice in Motion and Smoking Apples joining us.
To round off the year, we returned to our traditional Christmas panto offering, with Cinderella taking to the stage in our annual pantomime. In our Burton Taylor studio, we adapted Cerrie Burnell’s beautiful book Snowflakes, which premiered to a completely sold out run. A lovely way to round off a busy year of new work!
2015 began with a UK tour to theatres and local Oxford primary schools of our charmingly silly family show Bath Time. March saw us touring to shopping centres around the UK with Ready Steady Colour, a co-production with A Line who make interactive art installations. Resident company Shared Experience toured across the UK with Mermaid, a production inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. Our resident young people’s theatre company,17|25, performed Hattie Naylor’s adaptation of The Odyssey. In keeping with our 2014 Radical Oxford theme,Suffragettes and Rabble Rousers launched in March with, Margaret Drabble, Paterson Joseph, Glyn Maxwell, Molly Naylor and Polly Teale penning monologues about famous radical Oxfordians. Our third year of the Evolve scheme got underway in April and we welcomed Jake Bennett, Mike Tweedle and Dot&Ethel to the scheme. The Boy Who Bit Picasso was the year’s Easter treat in the Burton Taylor Studio before it went on a UK tour through April and May. As if that wasn’t enough, What To Do When You Find A Dinosaur returned to the BT Studio in autumn as part of a UK tour. In September, we welcomed back Paterson Joseph to the Playhouse with his one man show Sancho: An Act Of Remembrance, which started its journey in the BT Studio back in 2011. In October, we co-produced a sparkling new production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest with Northern Stage and Improbable Theatre. To finish the year off in style, we presented our traditional array of Christmas treats with Dear Father Christmas in the BT Studio, and the tale of Aladdin written and directed by Steve Marmion taking centre stage as our annual pantomime.
2014 saw Oxford Playhouse take on the theme of Radical Thinking with many of this year’s home-grown productions taking inspiration from ground-breaking ideas associated with the city. We’ve been commemorating the pioneers of old, the pirates of today, and the mavericks who have dared to think differently in the fields of art, science, politics, religion, literature, and philosophy.
The year began with a UK tour to five theatres of our charmingly silly family show Tea Time, and in March we supported our resident company Shared Experience with the initial development phase of their new show Mermaid at the Old Museum at Oxford Town Hall. Our resident young people’s theatre company 16|22 kicked off the Radical Thinkingseason with performances of Attempts on her Life at Frevd’s café. Also, in the early Spring we launched The Scarborough Poetry Walk at the Stephen Joseph Theatre; inspired by the success of The Oxford Poetry Walk in recent years, this audio experience will be available in Scarborough over the summer months. Our second year of the Evolvescheme is under way and we’re delighted to welcome Hannah Ringham, Anna Bruder and Tucked In to the scheme. May Day saw a day-long co-production with Pegasus Theatre in the form of Soapbox City, a chance for Oxford residents to address the world. In June we were very excited to be working with Chris Goode and Company to present the world premiere of STAND, real-life stories of courage and conscience from Oxford residents who stood up for something or someone they believed in. As if that wasn’t enough, sold-out family audiences enjoyed What To Do When You Find A Dinosaur in the BT Studio, which took inspiration from William Buckland’s ‘discovery’ of dinosaurs in Stonesfield, Oxfordshire, and to finish the year off in style we’ve got our traditional Christmas treats lined up with Hurry Up, Father Christmas! in the BT, and the enchanting tale of Beauty and the Beast taking centre stage as our annual pantomime.
2013 began with a co-production of Charles Dickens' Curiosity Shop with Theatre Alibi in March. In the spring, our resident young people’s theatre company, 16|22, produced Under Milk Wood on our main stage and in April we saw the return of the hugely popular The Oxford Poetry Walk. We supported our resident company Shared Experience on their new production, Bracken Moor, at the Tricycle Theatre in London, and we worked with the resident Director and Producer at Magdalen College School on their first independent production, England Street, which was performed in our BT Studio in April. We were very excited in April to welcome our first trio of artists on our new Evolve scheme (read more about it here). In May we had a new pedal-tastic Playhouse Plays Out show, Bicycle Boy which was performed at the Osney Mill Marina Garage. We gave our Playhouse Plays Out Pop-up Theatre Tent another outing over the summer: it travelled the length and breadth of Oxfordshire, visiting carnivals, fêtes and schools throughout July and August. And finally we ended the year with our pantomime Robin Hood and the delightfully festive Father Christmas and the Icicle Bicycle for families in the BT Studio.