News Story

Oxford Playhouse is delighted to announce the artists who will form the lineup for Queer Fest, the theatre’s first queer new writing festival, in partnership with Pegasus Theatre. The festival is set to play from Thursday 20 to Saturday 22 June 2024 in the Burton Taylor Studio, showcasing a range of LGBTQIA+ artists from Oxfordshire and beyond.

Headliners for the festival include former Oxford Playhouse Evolve Artist JC Niala and award-winning theatre maker Victor Esses. Queer Fest will also feature Scratch Night performances from upcoming artists, with works packed full of Kate Bush lip-syncs, queer love and raining meat. Prepare for three nights of moving queer stories and exceptional performances from upcoming artists.

Mike Tweddle, Artistic Director & CEO of Oxford Playhouse, said:

We want Oxford Playhouse to be a Playhouse for Everyone, so it is an honour to be opening a space for LGBTQIA+ artists as part of the first Queer Fest. We are thrilled to platform a wide range of stories by highly talented writers and performers, and we hope you'll join us in celebrating their voices and vision.”

Forming part of the festival, Mike will share his expertise and experience as a queer theatre maker in a performance workshop at Pegasus Theatre, aimed at LGBTQIA+ artists in Oxfordshire.

Returning to The Playhouse, the Oxfordshire-based multi-award-winning writer and poet, JC Niala brings Out of Bounds to the BT Studio. Previously part of the Arcola Theatre’s pop-up festival of plays from around the world, the Nancy Dean Prize-winning piece is a love story exploring themes of cultural and class differences that two lovers, Felicity and Rose, face in the nineties and noughties. Niala is a former Evolve Artist of The Playhouse, previous work includes Life In a Goldfish Bowl which premiered at Liverpool Everyman.

The Death & Life of All of Us | Victor Esses

Joining the lineup is Victor Esses, with the celebrated The Death & Life of All of Us. The acclaimed migrant theatre maker brings his unique storytelling to the BT Studio after a sell-out premiere at Soho Theatre and an award-winning run at Summerhall, Edinburgh Fringe 2023. The show follows Victor’s discovery of his long-lost great-aunt in Rome, attempting to finish a documentary of his life that he began 20 years ago. A collection of home videos, endearing storytelling and original live music forms this critically acclaimed one-person multimedia show.

Fringe First Award-winning writer James Pickthall and director Julian Bruton will bring their funny and poignant staged reading of new play Hump Day. Inspired by real-life events, the piece explores issues of gay identity and body dysmorphia, in the setting of a swimming pool. Selected as one of the directors for The 24 Hour Play UK 2020, Bruton has directed at venues including Theatre Royal Haymarket, Stratford East, Theatre503, Southwark Playhouse and The Pleasance.

I, Victor | By Issy Flower

The festival opens with an exciting double bill of queer theatre, The Invert: a seductive piece of special pleading and I, Victor.

From Oxford-based duo, Costi Levy and Lily Sheldon, the first piece details the long court battle of The Well of Loneliness, the well-known lesbian work which was banned on the grounds of obscenity in 1928. Forbidden from testifying, Sheldon brings the author Marguerite Radclyffe Hall into the courtroom for the first time, in a dynamic exploration of free speech, moral panic and fears about queers. Levy returns to The Playhouse after directing the Oxford University student production of The Tempest (2023) and the North Wall’s Catalyst Arts Lab Residency (2024). Sheldon also returns to the Oxford stage, previous writing for the Michael Pilch Studio and the Oxford New Writing Festival where she won the Best Single Scene Award in 2022.

Former Oxford Playhouse Young Company member, Issy Flower brings I, Victor to the BT Studio, a new work inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, teamed with pop culture’s serial killer obsession. A passionate tale of love, loss and voracious ambition, Flower returns to the Oxford stage after working with BBC New Creatives, NSDF Hub and the Old Fire Station, Oxford.

Wisbech Meat Shower | Everybody Panic

Completing the three-day showcase, Queer Fest will host a special Scratch Night performance, featuring some thrilling new upcoming works.

A rainstorm of falling meat is inbound as duo Everybody Panic presents an excerpt of their new show Wisbech Meat Shower. Set in the early 200s amid a global pandemic caused by infected meat, two boys fall in love but discover they are less alone than they thought. Featuring TV and film actor Karen Ford and award-winning actor Nathan Peter Grassi, this original queer story is written by Thom Munden who directs alongside Krage Brown.

From the team behind international collective Babakas,Bert Roman, Lucy Hopkins and Juan Ayala stage their new work Who Cares. The one-person show follows Bert, a queer Belgian nurse as he fights to claim better rights and pay in a post-pandemic society.

Jonathan Kerr brings an evening of sex, lies and Kate Bush lip-syncs to life in Babooshka, exploring the complexity of relationships between lovers, friends, and pop icons.

Oxford Playhouse Resident Producer Leah O’Grady and Resident Director Lauren Carter

Queer Fest is an opportunity for LGBTQIA+ artists to connect with one another and experiment with exciting new theatre. Celebrating the diversity of the queer community, the three-day event will offer a vibrant mix of scratch-style performances and fully-fledged productions, placing queer talent centre stage in the theatre’s studio space.

The three-day festival is devised by Oxford Playhouse Resident Producer Leah O’Grady and Resident Director Lauren Carter.

“We hope this will be an opportunity for LGBTQIA+ artists to access a platform and network that may not have otherwise been available. We are looking forward to such a diverse and joyful weekend of performances, from scratch pieces to fully-fledged productions.”