Oxford Playhouse is delighted to announce its Spring 2024 Season, staging nationally and internationally acclaimed productions on the Main Stage, with an innovative programme for its Burton Taylor Studio, along with its own Take Part programme, packed full of creative adventures for all.
Drama at Oxford Playhouse begins with the return of the acclaimed production Black Is The Color Of My Voice, created and performed by Apphia Campbell. This brilliant production is inspired by the life of Nina Simone, with many of her most iconic songs performed live on stage, weaving together a story of a successful singer and civil rights activist as she seeks redemption.
The Playhouse is also excited to be joined by English Touring Theatre as they present a visceral and contemporary new production of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth. Described as “Succession meets Fleabag” (The Times), this production confronts why the play has haunted our fears and nightmares for centuries and what lesson this cautionary tale is still urgently trying to communicate?
A unique recreation of Mary Shelley’s Gothic classic ‘Frankenstein’ is brought to the main stage by ground-breaking theatre company imitating the dog and Leeds Playhouse. This contemporary adaptation draws on themes of fear and anxiety, while experimenting with multimedia techniques, a transformative, shape-shifting set and innovative stage design.
There are laughs aplenty in Michael Frayn’s legendary British comedy Noises Off, direct from the West End. Liza Goddard (Life of Riley, Communicating Doors, Season’s Greetings and Relatively Speaking), Paul Bradley (Nigel Bates in EastEnders and Elliot Hope in Holby City) and Simon Shepherd (Peak Performance, Posh, The Duck House, Rapture, Art and Hay Fever) join the cast of this celebrated play within a play, staged by Theatre RoyalBath Productions. Prepare to follow the on and off-stage antics as a touring theatre company stumble their way through the fictional farce, Nothing On.
A stellar cast also joins Theatre Royal Bath’s The Circle, a sparky comedy of manners by one of the finest novelists and playwright of the inter-war years, Somerset Maugham. Directed by Tom Littler, this firm favourite sees an excellent trio take to the stage, including Jane Asher (Alfie, Deep End), Clive Francis (The Crown) and Nicholas Le Prevost (Shakespeare in Love, Testament of Youth). The fantastic ensemble cast includes Pete Ashmore, Olivia Vinall and Chirag Benedict Lobo.
Another highlight of the Season includes the theatrical tour de force The Kite Runner, direct from Broadway and based on Khaled Hosseini’s international bestselling novel. This incredibly powerful story tells a haunting tale of friendship which spans cultures and continents. Set in an Afghanistan on the verge of war.
Music, dance, and opera are an exciting part of The Playhouse Spring Season, with glittering works presented by English Touring Opera in its double bill of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and Stravinsky’s brilliantly inventive The Rake’s Progress. This is followed later in the season by the city’s own award-winning Oxford Opera Company, back at The Playhouse with one of the greatest operas ever written, Tosca. The season also includes music from Opera della Luna with Gilbert & Sullivan’s iconic production of HMS Pinafore, an evening with Julian and Jiaxin Lloyd-Webber, stunning folk vocals from Kate Rusby, and a new concert from The Pasadena Roof Orchestra.
Music delights of the Season also include a heady contemporary OperaCocktail, full of music and words from touring company OperaUpClose; Rachmaninoff’s Elégie presented by pianist Lucy Parham, internationally known for her Composer Portraits. Spring also sees another visit from iconic British folk-rock band, Fairport Convention, with long established favourites and some surprises from albums old and new.
Dance on The Playhouse stage sees the return of two acclaimed companies, Ballet Black and Richard Chappell Dance. Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black presents a new double bill, HEROES, devised by Mthuthuzeli November and Sophie Laplane. Internationally renowned company Richard Chappell Dance also make a welcome return to the stage, presenting their latest creation Hot House, a passionate response to the cost-of-living crisis in the form of concert meets bonfire.
Thomas Hardy’s classic novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles is brought to life by an ensemble of circus performers as Ockham’s Razor takes the stage in Tess. The retelling captures the beauty, heartbreak and yearning of the novel against a backdrop of projections as the cast wield wooden planks, climb shifting walls and move through ropes and swathes of linen to evoke the vast landscapes and interior worlds of Hardy’s Wessex.
More ballet comes in from Ballet Central, with performers from the world-renowned Central School of Ballet. Celebrating the Year of the Dragon, Jinlong Culture & Performing Arts return to Oxford with their Chinese New Year Festival Show, accompanied by an 18-metre long dragon to illuminate the Playhouse stage in this family-friendly show full of colour, amazement and fun.
After the pantomime season draws to a close at Oxford Playhouse, more laughs can be found in Comedy Club 4 Kids, a show full of the best stand-ups and sketch acts from the international circuit… but without the rude bits! Regular hosts include CBBC veterans Tiernan Douieb (The Slammer), Iain Stirling (Help! My Supply Teacher's Magic!), Luke Toulson (Space Pirates) and Stuart Goldsmith (Mission:2110).
No season would be the same without a visit from the characters of the iconic stories by Julia Donaldson and Axel Sheffler. Based on the original book, Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book takes audiences on a journey through the wonder of books. This stage adaptation is brought to life with puppetry and enchanting songs.
Northern Ballet bring a charming introduction to ballet and music with the classic tale Tortoise and the Hare. Choreographed by Dreda Blow and Sebastian Loe, this story is perfect for all ages, following the cheeky Hare and thoughtful Tortoise in a playful retelling.
Oxford Playhouse has long enjoyed the company of an array of comedians and one-night performers, and this season is no exception.
Audiences will be no short of laughs this Spring as Dillie, Liza and Adele also return to the main stage, celebrating forty years of the raciest and sassiest musical cabaret in Britain, Fascinating Aïda. Audiences can delight in Stewart Lee’s new show, Basic Lee, after sell-out performances in Oxford last year, as well as a new show from Miles Jupp, a tale about surprise, fear, luck, love and qualified medical practitioners in On I Bang.
Strictly Come Dancing makes it way to The Playhouse in the form of Graziano Di Prima’s brand-new show Believe – My Life On Stage. Talking about his life in Sicily before the sequins and sparkles, this is bound to be an electrifying evening of Latin and Ballroom dancing, joined on stage by his wife Giada Lini.
Other Spring comedy highlights include Dom Joly embarking on his Conspiracy Tourist Tour; Griff Rhys Jones is back on the road with his new stand-up show The Cat’s Pyjamas, full of rambles on age, family, fraud, nostalgia and the Tik Tok generation, and a Die Hard parody performance by Richard Marsh, the genius Yippee Ki Yay.
Like any season, The Playhouse is delighted to partner with Oxford University students, this time with a bold new production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. Local companies Oxford Theatre Guild and Musical Youth Company of Oxford will also delight audiences this Spring, with a roaring twenties take on Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest from OTG, and “the happiest of musicals” performed by MYCO in Me and My Girl.
Audiences can look forward to a different experience this Spring, with seating upon the main stage for the Oxford Playhouse Young Company production of Blue Stockings. Directed by the theatre’s own Head of Participation, Paul Simpson, young people aged 17 to 25 explore Jessica Swale’s witty and celebrated play, charting the journey of four young women embarking on their first year of higher education, knowing they will never formally graduate or be recognised for their achievements.
The Playhouse also has a wide range of workshops and activities for audiences to join in with through its own Take Part programme.
Playhouse Youth Theatre returns to Oxford Playhouse, making up part of the NTConnections Festival, the National Theatre’s nationwide youth theatre festival. The showcase was set up for youth groups to stage new plays written for young people, with the Playhouse Youth Theatre preparing to perform at The North Wall and for the festival itself.
Through the holidays, those aged 7 to 11 can spend the week at The Playhouse, exploring magical tales in Play in a Week, with a performance for parents and families at the end of the course. Our older audiences can enjoy a deeper look into performing arts with guest facilitators in our Social Thursdays sessions, previous activities have included playwrighting, dance, costume and lighting design, a supportive space for people to come together.
Adult theatregoers can also take part themselves, in our Playhouse Adult Company, a multi-generational group for those with a passion for theatre, before performing a scripted performance of a Greco-Roman classic in our Burton Taylor Studio in March.
Continuing to make Monday mornings musical, our Hey Diddle Diddle sessions continue for ages 5 and under and their adults. With a new theme each week, these interactive 30-minute sessions are a perfect introduction to music, dance and performance.
Around the corner from The Playhouse main stage, audiences can enjoy the very best of new writing and fringe theatre at the Burton Taylor Studio, Oxford’s coolest and smallest place to see new work.
From poetry musings by Luke Wright with his Edinburgh Fringe Smash Hit Silver Jubilee, a play set in the world of C S Lewis, Susan in Narnia, and a display of poetry and African Drumming by Francis Boua, there’s something to surprise and entertain the most seasoned theatregoer.