Arts & Culture

Oxford Playhouse Celebrates 80 Years

By Cait Sweeney at

Oxford Playhouse is celebrating 80 years of welcoming audiences to Beaumont Street this autumn.

The theatre marks its 80th birthday with a bumper season of shows and events, headlined by four co-productions of major national tours, an all-star Gala performance and free tickets for anyone born in 1938! Alongside the celebrations the theatre will be working towards sustaining the next 80 years, with a fundraising campaign to extend the Playhouse’s work with local artists and children across the county.

Kicking off the year-long programme of events is an evening of banter from BAFTA Award-winning actor and OP Patron Michael Palin and comedian, actor and campaigner Sally Phillips. Michael and Sally will be discussing their lives, careers and memories of OP on Tuesday 10 July at 7.30pm.

As well as marking the theatre’s vibrant history, the anniversary plans include a renewed commitment to create ground-breaking new theatre, with the Playhouse hoping to commission and co-produce three productions every year.

‘We’re aiming for the Playhouse to be at the forefront of producing theatres nationwide. We want to make shows in Oxford to travel the world, whilst continuing to bring the best of world theatre to Oxford’, said Louise Chantal, the current Director of the theatre.

To achieve this target, OP is organising a host of events and activities. Many of the gifted artists who have appeared at the Playhouse over the years will be celebrating the Playhouse’s actual birthday on Sunday 21st October 2018 at an 80th Anniversary Gala Performance.
Award-winning Oxford-based film producer Victor Glynn will be directing the show, with stars such as Christopher Biggins, Katy Brand, Sinead Cusack, Patricia Hodge, Jeremy Irons, Freddie Jones and Gugu Mbatha-Raw already lining up to appear, and many more to be announced. This stellar evening is presented in association with the Macdonald Randolph Hotel, who will host a star-studded after-party on the night. The event is also supported by North Oxford BMW and MINI.

Oxford Playhouse is also delighted to announce that Oxford-born Hollywood star Gugu Mbatha-Raw MBE has recently become a Patron of the theatre, joining a list of prestigious names including Dame Judi Dench, Rowan Atkinson, Stewart Lee and Paterson Joseph amongst others. Gugu started her career in the Playhouse pantomime Young Company, and is now joining the A-list of Hollywood stars, having worked with the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith in films such as Belle and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw said ‘I am so honoured to become a Patron of Oxford Playhouse. Having grown up on this stage, I feel a special privilege to know that I am joining such an esteemed group of patrons for Oxford Playhouse.’

And to add to the celebrations even more, the Playhouse will be giving away free tickets to any audience members also turning 80 this year. The tickets will be valid for Thursday matinees in the autumn 2018 season. Anyone born in 1938 can call the Ticket Office to find out more.

This Anniversary year sees the theatre collecting memories and anecdotes of OP from the most important people of all, the audience. Theatre is all about stories, and Oxford Playhouse would like to hear your stories of the last 80 years of theatre in the city. Send your anecdotes or memories of the Playhouse to OP80@oxfordplayhouse.com

While celebrating an illustrious history and preparing for a resilient future, Oxford Playhouse extends special thanks to St John’s College Oxford, the University of Oxford,
Arts Council England, Oxford City Council and the people of Oxford for their continued support, which has enabled OP to touch the hearts of so many generations in the city, the county and beyond.

For more information visit: http://www.oxfordplayhouse.com