Every now and again we, at Oxford Playhouse, like to shake things up a bit. To challenge our audiences, to challenge our own perceptions and to remind ourselves that theatre is not a static art form.
So at the start of September we are welcoming the Lyric Hammersmith for two weeks who will be taking over the building with Secret Theatre. The Lyric is itself undergoing a massive redevelopment project and rather than close completely the Artistic Director, Sean Holmes, decided to use the restrictions of this very practical problem to make something bold. He wrote a manifesto and formed an ensemble of performers, writers, directors, designers and dramaturge to together explore new ways of making theatre. Sometimes they would start with a known text, sometimes they would start with an idea. And the titles would be kept a secret – each show being assigned a number in the order they were created. The ambition was to challenge audiences to come and experience something afresh, without knowing what you’re seeing, sometimes without really knowing where you are going; to not rely on known titles or known faces to lead decision making. It caught headlines and imaginations. And it got people talking and thinking. Which of course great theatre should always do.
Spurred on by this success the Lyric decided to take the Secret nationwide including premiering the newest show in the series (Secret Theatre Show 6) at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The tour is called the Secret’s Out and, because of reviews and social media, the show’s titles and synopsises can easily be found with a quick Google search. But we wanted to give Oxford audiences the same experience that the London audiences had – that of coming to the theatre having left preconceptions at home, so we’ve purposefully left them a secret and set you the challenge.
If you want to know more, then our ticket office staff can give you a few clues to guide your decision making – or if you really, really want to know they will tell you what each show is called but we hope that you’ll join in the spirit of Secret Theatre. We’ve kept ticket prices as low as possible with the shows in the Burton Taylor Studio and secret off-site location costing just £11. Show 5 has sold out but for £44 you can see the other four shows (we’re presenting Shows 2 to 6 – practical reasons means that we can only have 5 and the chance of a show hot from Edinburgh was too good to pass up).
So what can you expect? Theatre from a world class producing company made by and with an ensemble of incredible artists; theatre that will make you think and feel; theatre that isn’t always comfortable to watch but is highly topical. Theatre that might just, in a tiny way, change your world. Come and share it with us.
Katy Snelling, Programmer