Memories and Stories

Memories and Stories

As part of the celebrations for our 80th birthday, we are asking you to send us your memories, stories and anecdotes from the past 80 years.

Pop in to the theatre and place them on our memory board located in the foyer or email your story to OP80@oxfordplayhouse.com, we'd love to hear from you.  

 Here's some of the memories we've received so far...

I have such fond memories of being at Oxford Playhouse as a child, watching all of the pantos and it being 'the' Oxford theatre. I'd always imagine how amazing it would be to perform on that stage one day - and to then find myself behind the theatre bar in my late teens - to becoming an associate artist with Idle Motion and performing at the Burton Taylor and then on the main stage - and then to being invited onto the board as a Trustee. A local gal done good, treading the OP boards so to speak! I'll never forget the time Idle Motion performed That Is All You Need To Know  to a sellout home crowd in the main theatre space. That was incredibly special. 

Ellie Simpson


The Playhouse wasn't quite my first introduction to the world of theatre. I suppose that came in Bournemouth at a panto, or ice panto when i was a very young boy in the 50s. 

But it was my first encounter as a descriminating teenager in 1967 when a couple of trips from my grammar school in Leighton Buzzard brought Peter Schaffer's Royal Hunt For The Sun and Tom Stoppard's Rosencranz and Gildenstern Are Dead to a lad who was more interested in the burgeoning new culture of the Beatles, the Who and Jimi Hendrix than theatre. Both were unusual even for those times and they taught me that drama isn't confined to drawing rooms.

Twenty years later I am living 20 miles from Oxford and want to reconnnect with the Playhouse so my wife and I keep finding excuses to go - not as often as now because of time costraints, but enough to remind me that in that lovely space I feel entirely at home, as in no other theatre, no matter how ornate or rustic.

Another couple of years and I'm offered a job as a TV reporter and presenter at Central TV with a new studio and newsroom just down the road in Abingdon. My relationship with the theatre intensifies and survives with ease the closure in the very early 90s for refurbishment. When it reopens i keep finding reasons to put it and its shows on TV - I stretch this out to other theatres in our vast region, of course, but my heart leaps every time I walk through those black swing doors - or through the stage door. 

 I have interviewed on that stage the complete Famiy West - Timmothy, Samuel and Prunella - , Ian Lavender has given me detailed tips on how to be a prat in panto for a one-off special, I have seen the cream of British Theatre on that stage and continue to do so.

So when I finished in TV I thought it would be the end of the association, but no, absolutely not; I'm more engaged than ever by reviewing for a local paper I get to just about every terrific show here.  From Ayckbourn's deceptive normality to Cheek By Jowl's inventive intensity.

The Playhouse takes risks in its programming and it doesn't always come off; that's fine, if we aren't allowed to fail then we can't succeed.

So thank you, Playhouse, for these 50 years.  I don't think I realised, until I sat down to think, just how much you have helped to define me.

Mike Rowbottom

August 2018
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