With a full programme planned for 2020, Covid changed everything for Oxford Theatre Guild.
But with a whole new stream of shows up their thespian sleeves for 2021, the top notch local theatre group is re-emerging from lockdown all guns blazing with four shows in the next four weeks and six planned this year.
From The Cherry Orchard and As You Like It at St Edwards to Baggage, It’s True. It’s True. It’s True and Our Country’s Good at OFS, as well as Andromache at Trinity College Chapel, it’s an ambitious and exciting programme.
“Audience feedback is already great – there is such a demand and appetite for live theatre and we always deliver a really mixed programme”
So why such a complex selection? “Well four out of six of the plays are part or fully rehearsed because they were ready to go when we had to close because of Covid, so they were easy to resurrect,” OTG’s Simon Tavener told me.
“And then St Edwards and The North Wall stepped in to let us use their sports fields for The Cherry Orchard and As You Like It, so while four shows in four weeks might sound extreme, some are smaller than others, making it all more manageable.
“Baggage and It’s True… are both small scale productions and we usually do four shows a year anyway from March to November so apart from a bit of recasting and a more compact rehearsal period, we’ve coped well.”
So what can we expect? “The Cherry Orchard was a zeitgeist for 2020, let alone now because it’s all about change and adapting to our circumstances. As You Like It has been given a regency twist, Andromache will be performed in the intimacy of Trinity College Chapel, with associated workshops with Cheek By Jowl – a big coup.
Baggage is about someone bumping into a homeless woman, and the misconceptions and generalisations involved in that, so really relevant to the OFS, It’s True is a verbatim, intimate piece of theatre about a 16th century rape trial and one woman’s struggle for justice directed by Alexandra Coke, and Our Country’s Good is one of the great plays of the second half of the 20th century.
And with The Cherry Orchard opening next week, how is Oxford Theatre Guild feeling? “To be honest everyone is just delighted to be back,” Simon adds.
“Audience feedback is already great – there is such a demand and appetite for live theatre and we always deliver a really mixed programme, so everyone is ready to rise to the challenge.
“We are confident we can do this and are champing at the bit to be honest. We just want to be back in front of an audience making great theatre.”
The Cherry Orchard – St Edward’s Sports Fields – 13th to 28th July (https://www.oxfordtheatreguild.com/productions/a-summer-of-magical-theatre)
Baggage by Bev Clark – OFS – 15th to 17th July (https://oldfirestation.org.uk/whats-on/baggage/)
As You Like It – St Edward’s Sports Fields – 21st to 31st July (https://www.oxfordtheatreguild.com/productions/a-summer-of-magical-theatre)
It’s True. It’s True. It’s True. – OFS – 12th to 14th August (https://oldfirestation.org.uk/whats-on/its-true-its-true-its-true/)
Andromache by Racine – Trinity College Chapel – September
Our Country’s Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker – OFS – November