Arts & Culture
Meanwhile at Oxford Playhouse...

Flo & Joan

Oxford Playhouse is delighted to launch its exciting new Autumn 2020 Meanwhile Season, a programme of work that embraces live socially-distanced shows, live streaming, digital commissions, great talks, and family theatre, along with a full participation programme for everyone to get involved and stay connected whilst the theatre is closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

OP aims to engage and entertain loyal and new audiences this autumn with a programme that includes digital world premieres, a great line-up of comedy, immersive listening events, and real-time Zoom experiments.  Public booking for events opens on Wednesday 23 September on the Playhouse website.

Louise Chantal and Vanessa Lefrançois, Joint CEOs Oxford Playhouse said: ‘Interesting times call for creative approaches – to theatre as much as to life!  2020 has brought many challenges for us all, not least how to stay creative. This ‘meanwhile’ programme spans live and online performances and we’ve tried to look at new ways of presenting theatre to ensure creative ideas and talent are kept active during the current crisis.   Everyone at the Playhouse is delighted to be welcoming audiences back to the theatre, albeit in a much reduced and rather different way, and we’re thrilled to have commissioned and now be premiering new work, embracing innovative ways of working which will no doubt be ‘the new normal’ from now on.’

Laura Elliot, Programme and Participation Director said: “This programme brings together the work of over 150 artists who are embracing bold and brave new ways of working.  It’s been an honour to curate, and would not have been possible without the generous support of our commissioning and community partners and the incredible Oxford Playhouse team.”

OP Commissions

Oxford Playhouse is proud to have commissioned six world premieres during lockdown which will be showcased this autumn, inviting audiences to experience theatre in a new way.  These include:

Under the Mask, co-produced with Tamasha, a live binaural listening event based on the real-life experience of a newly qualified doctor on the front line of the Covid pandemic, with audiences seated directly on the OP stage;

Small Hours - co-commissioned with IF Oxford and directed by Yasmin Sidwha of Mandala Theatre, with scientific advice from the University of Oxford Sleep & Circadian Neuroscience Institute, this piece is performed by four young actors across the globe and probes the mysteries of sleep;

Do You Love Me Yet? - a funny, touching, live experiment into human intimacy, in which the audience watch two actors meet for the first time on Zoom. Created by Jocelyn Cox and Samuel E Taylor, commissioned by Oxford Playhouse with the support from TORCH (University of Oxford) and Ferment, Bristol Old Vic;

Great Big Story Mash Up - created by OP family-friendly theatre company favourites Roustabout (One Small Step), an improvised fairy tale led by audience suggestions which sees wild and wonderful ideas brought to life;

Take Up Space - by Evolve artist and movement director Jenni Jackson, invites a group of 30 womxn on a journey to discover how we use our bodies and what it means to ‘Take Up Space’;

Oxford Winter Light Festival mobile installation by local artist Nor - co-commissioned with Arts at The Old Fire Station and Tandem Arts Collective, this open-air event asks communities what would you put in an empty parking space?

OP Live

Oxford Playhouse is delighted to open up the theatre for a number of special socially-distanced shows, with a reduced capacity, featuring favourite comedians and speakers. Where possible, these events will also be live-streamed to audiences at home.  Highlights include:

Live at the Playhouse with Sara Pascoe - four of the best stand-up talents around take to the OP stage headlined by Sara Pascoe.  Best-known for her BBC2 Sara Pascoe Live: LadsLadsLads and her best-selling books Animal and Sex, Power, Money and her numerous TV appearances, Sara Pascoe is joined by Mock the Week regular Rhys James, rising star Sophie Ducker, and Live at the Apollo star Ivo Graham;

Michael Spicer: The Room Next Door – The Hybrid Addition - Produced only for Oxford Playhouse, this 6-minute show will be performed live to an audience and simultaneously streamed on YouTube. Michael Spicer talks about his life making comedy under the radar, his viral hits of the past and of course, brand new Room Next Door sketches;

Nina Conti: The Dating Show (Work in Progress) - British Comedy Award Winner and OP favourite Nina Conti pioneers her new dating show for this live and live-streamed event. She’ll be joined on stage by special guest Lou Sanders;

Jericho Comedy: The DragProv Revue – gloriously musical drag king and queen double act Christian Adore and Eaton Messe will create a dazzlingly vibrant cabaret.  An uproariously wicked show where RuPaul’s glamour meets Whose Line Is It Anyway?

OP Online

In addition to OP’s homegrown digital commissions, there will also be a full digital programme, OP Online, in which Oxford Playhouse has hand-picked the best of digital touring productions for audiences to enjoy from the comfort of their living rooms.  Fun, interactive and though-provoking, these shows will be live streamed from venues around the UK.  Highlights include:

Coney Theatre’s Escape Zooma live interactive theatre game which invites audiences into an online world of secret passages, hidden codes and B-movie storylines.  Players solve puzzles, visit strange worlds, and grapple with what it means to get out of our bedrooms right now;

Javaad Alipoor Company present The Believers Are But Brothers – a generation of young men, find themselves burning with resentment which leads them on a journey into an online world of fantasy, violence and reality. One of the word-of-mouth hits of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, this award-winning play is both in and of our times.  Live streamed to Oxford audiences from HOME Manchester.

OP Online Families

Oxford Playhouse recognises that 2020 has not been an easy time for families and has put together some fantastic shows with OP Online Families to fire up kids’ imaginations and allow them to digitally connect to some of the very best of children’s theatre.  Highlights include:

Rock Pool – two very different creatures, Prawn and Crab, must learn to get on swimmingly in a lonely, little rock pool if they’re going to survive hunger, boredom seagull attacks and each other!   A 6-part audio drama for 4 – 7 year olds from Inspector Sands;

Kaleidoscope Concert – a multi-coloured kaleidoscope is brought to life for babies, featuring sounds from live musicians, visual and sensory activities.  Inspired by how a baby’s sense of sight and colour develops and presented by Filskit Theatre;

The Gift of Winter – with access to a special digital platform, that will enable audiences to make and watch their own show at Christmas, Lyngo Theatre creates a journey through a garden of delights to discover how Winter got his colours.

OP In Conversation

The Autumn programme also includes three unique live streamed OP in Conversation events, with writers and authors giving readings of their work and answering questions about their extraordinary lives.

Inua Ellams: Search Party – award-winning poet and playwright Inua Ellams (Barber Shop Chronicles, The Half-God of Rainfall) brings a special, audience-led poetry event to OP via Zoom;

Lemn Sissay: My Name Is Why – this is Lemn’s life story: a story of neglect and determination, misfortune and hope, cruelty and triumph.  Reading from his Sunday Times bestselling and Radio 4 Book of The Week memoir, Lemn reflects on a childhood in care, self-expression and Britishness and is a celebration of the redemptive power of creativity;

Amrou Al-Khadi: Life As A Unicorn – award-winning British-Iraqi writer, performer and director reads from his award-winning and sensational debut memoir. Amrou is also known to OP audiences for wowing as the evil and glamorous villain Judy Hench in Jack and the Beanstalk 2017.

Oxford Playhouse’s Participation Programme has gone back online this season, offering loads of ways for audiences to get involved.  Events range from online acting companies to baby singing groups, and from Knit and Knatter zoom sessions to digital masterclasses.  Highlights include:

C.O.V.I.D. (A Clown’s Overly Vivid Imagination & Desire) - A video masterclass, delivered by Mark Curtis (Small Nose Productions) and introducing theatrical clowning as a level of play for those who study theatre and those who are developing their craft as an artist, practitioner or facilitator;

Primary Playmaker – supporting schools digitally, OP’s flagship writing programme helps bring literacy to life in the classroom.  A series of ten workshops aimed at Years 5 & 6, and open to primary schools across Oxfordshire;

Digital Fun Palace for families – bringing art and science together, Fun Palace believes in the genius in everyone and that creativity can change the world for the better. A weekend of fun activities, workshops, craft, tech, digital and sport;

Online Acting Companies – with companies for all ages from 12 to 112 and open to anyone with an enthusiasm for theatre-making. Oxford Playhouse also offers a bursary scheme for acting companies for anyone who wants to take part but may need help with the fees.

OP Supporting Artists

Artists remain at the heart of everything the Playhouse does and the theatre will continue to support them during these challenging times.   This Autumn, OP will be working with The Plot, a self-organising, diverse group of later-career playwrights, to help them develop their own voices and practice. The Plot is the latest addition to OP’s extensive artist development programme, which includes Evolve, Playhouse Playmaker and Advice Sessions for local artists.

Oxford Playhouse is following the safety and hygiene measures set out by the government in its guidance for performing arts.  For audiences’ safety and assurance, OP has put a number of Covid-secure measures in place, including staggered arrival times, reduced capacity and socially distanced seats, air circulation, enhanced cleaning and Test and Trace on arrival.  Oxford Playhouse has been awarded the seal of approval from both Visit England’s: We’re Good to Go and UK Theatre’s: See It Safely. Full details of all the Covid-secure measures at Oxford Playhouse can be found at  

During Autumn 2020, Oxford Playhouse has also invited the University of Oxford to use the theatre during the daytime, to allow socially distanced teaching and lectures, while we are presenting this reduced programme. This temporary arrangement, provides an elegant solution to some of the challenges both Oxford institutions face due to Covid-19, and allows the University to utilise the theatre spaces until Oxford Playhouse is able to fully reopen for live performance.

Oxford Playhouse is currently considering the options for its Christmas programme of events in light of the ongoing restrictions and social distancing measures in place as a result of Covid-19.  An announcement on the Christmas programme will follow at the end of September 2020.

To book tickets for any of the performances and events at Oxford Playhouse, go to