Trinity term in Oxford is often synonymous with the looming threat of exams on top of the usual Oxford workload, be they prelims or finals, peppered with the occasional punting trip or picnic by the boathouse in a rare guilt-free break from work as the weather begins to turn (marginally) more clement. And yet, in spite of – or perhaps because of – the intensity of the summer term, whether you have exams coming or not, the creative scene in the University, as well as in Oxford more widely, flourishes along with the blossom on the trees. The scope and diversity of drama and performance on offer over the coming term is extraordinarily broad, with events boasting a universal appeal as well as those for more targeted audiences scheduled left, right and centre. It would be impossible to explore each and every production that’s taking place over the next couple of months, but here is a very cursory sample of what’s on offer in the dramatic scene.
- Garden Plays
These are often hugely successful productions (albeit all the more stressful for the organisers!), and an experience that we are fortunate to have at Oxford. Normally, they take place later on in term to allow for the weather to reach its warmest – although from personal experience, blankets, fleeces and hot water bottles never go amiss. Taking theatre to an outdoor space naturally poses some difficulties, but brings many more benefits: the use of the beautiful spaces within the gardens of Oxford colleges as natural scenery is always effective and often versatile as a space in which to perform. Two of the bigger outdoor plays that run each year are the Oxford Shakespeare Company’s garden play – Love’s Labours Lost this year – and the productions that come to the Bodleian Front Quad over the summer. The OSC’s production is in Wadham gardens and runs from 18th-28th June, and The Globe Theatre On Tour is putting on Two Gentlemen of Verona in the Bodleian from 19th-31st There are plenty of other smaller college productions that run as well, and we’ll be covering these plays later in term: if you’ve not experienced a garden play yet in Oxford, do it this term – you won’t regret it.
The Bard may be long gone (400 years ago, in fact!) but his work and inspiration still lives on, especially this year, in commemoration of the anniversary of his death. For this reason, there is even more Shakespearean themed drama about at the moment, but then again who’s complaining about that? Garden plays, as mentioned above, are often a reliable source of Shakespeare to whet your appetite, but there are plenty of other avenues you can go down if you haven’t yet had your fill. If you missed out on Creation Theatre’s production of King Lear in Blackwells last term, then don’t fear – Lear is coming to the Playhouse from 25th-30th April, and it’s framed by two Shakespeare-inspired productions; the Herbal Bed (19th-23rd April), which is based on real events surrounding the daughter of Shakespeare, Susanna Hall, and The Fairy Queen (4th-7th May), in which Oxford students will be performing Henry Purcell’s rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. If everything seems to be taking the turn for the morbid, The Complete Deaths, again at the Playhouse on 6th-8th June, might be for you, aiming to portray in different styles the 75 onstage deaths that occur in Shakespeare. Don’t forget to look to the cinema for Shakespeare, too, as the Phoenix Picturehouse among others in Oxford continues to offer live theatre in front of the big screen, with ‘Shakespeare Live! from the RSC’ on 23rd April as well as the RSC’s production of Hamlet, on 8th and 13th Overall, the Bard seems to be pretty omnipresent – but then again, you can never have enough Shakespeare!
Student comedy is everywhere in Oxford when you start to look for it, so if sketch shows and farcical plays are your scene, then keep your eyes and ears peeled because there will be lots going on, particularly in the run up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. If it’s the bigger names in comedy you’re after, though, you won’t be disappointed: the Oxford Revue are joining with the Cambridge Footlights and the Durham Revue on 11th June at the Playhouse to deliver some top-notch university comedy, you can see Bill Bailey at the New Theatre on 11th and 12th May doing his new ‘Limboland’ tour, and Mark Watson is around at the Playhouse on 1st June – you may need to phone for returns for his popular show, or wait and catch it at the Fringe instead. Comedy is all around us, and a great break from revision, essays and labs – we’ll be keeping you abreast of various comedy ventures, big and small, in Oxford throughout the term.
- Theatre in all its forms
The BT studio is already brimming with exciting theatre projects with the promise of more to follow, coupled with the usual talent and creativity that Oxford student theatre brings to the table. In addition, the New Theatre has a variety of performances: Footloose is the order of the day until 23rd April, and thereafter there are plenty of musicals, musicians, comedians and variety performers paying Oxford a visit. The New Theatre brought out its summer and autumn brochure just this week, so take a look on their website and book early to avoid disappointment. The Old Fire Station, too, is the host of some fascinating and original theatre pieces, such as ‘This Room’ on 22nd April, in which Laura Jane Dean uses the stage to express her experiences of living with OCD, as well as shared anecdotes and talks from Chris Dobrowolski in relation to his experience in Antarctica, on 23rd April, and from Rob Gee, ex-psychiatrist turned poet and comedian, on 29th April, with plenty other entertaining events programmed throughout the term.
All in all, it’s set to be a fascinating and varied term for theatre, comedy and all kinds of performing arts in Oxford, so get your friends together and make the most of your student discount tickets – it’ll be worth it!