Plenty: final Oxford play

Plenty

The final Oxford play for producer Andrew Hall, David Hare’s incredible Plenty was a moving and challenging project both onstage and off, drawing on lessons learned and talent met across five previous projects in the city during the past two years. A string of outstanding reviews and impressed, engaged audiences showed the production’s success behind the scenes and on the boards.

Praise for the cast was high and powerful; in crafting the difficult and often awkward dialogue the play’s director Luke Howarth, returning to the collaboration after Othello last summer, brought with him the experience of AD Flo Brady. The pairing presented new ideas and viewpoints on a modern classic of a play, and the cast more than rose to the occasion of portraying the gradual emotional and romantic breakdown of one of the most powerful female characters in modern drama. Starring Gráinne O’Mahoney, Andrew Dickinson (Jerusalem) and Aoife Cantrill, supported by Shrai Popat, George Varley, Dom Pollard, Izzy Jesper-Jones, Emma Brand and Will Yeldham, the performances drew guests close to tears despite the play being infamously difficult for audiences to grapple with.

Technically, the play earned and deserved its impressed commentary from the reviewers too. The all-wooden set presented new problems for technical director Alex Grew (Endgame, ’Tis Pity, Othello, Jerusalem) in its design and construction on the show’s limited budget, with the logistics surrounding its sheer size and scale hitting home with the tasks of decorating, wiring, bracing and dressing. The play’s lighting design, an oft-neglected area of plays by reviewers and audience, was well-received and added a powerful tool to the arsenal of technical director Mina Ebtehadj-Marquis (Endgame, ’Tis Pity, Othello, Jerusalem) in bringing out the emotional tensions of the play through a deliberately artificial set. Alex Newton, production manager and responsible for the flying rig, faced his own challenges: from an almost-full-sized tree moving down over the set to a series of flying lamps and chandeliers, he brought a new dimension to the theatre space which had not previously been exploited by the team on other projects. Onstage, transitions were cued with music and radio recordings lending a period touch to the otherwise non-linear narrative, and the complex set changes were the responsibility of stage manager Ruth Ingamells (Jerusalem) and ASM Alice Skinner, who took charge for the array of antique furniture as well as the revolver used throughout the play.

Marketing such a hard-hitting play is no mean feat either, but marketing director Lily Taylor (James) – who joined the team from her previous role as Broadcast Editor at Cherwell – delivered a powerful campaign that matched the tone of the play, refusing to cave to the temptation of marketing through gimmicks to provide a series of professional imagery, video of key scenes, written previews and video interviews. Invaluable to the design of the campaign was graphic artist Laura Whitehouse (Endgame, Othello) and photographer Oliver Robinson (’Tis Pity, Othello, Jerusalem, James), whose experience with O’Reilly theatre photography is remarkable.

As the final project in a string of successful Oxford plays, the success of Plenty meant a huge amount to producer Andrew Hall. Lessons in staging learned in the confines of BT Studio, in construction from previous O’Reilly shows like ’Tis Pity and Jerusalem, and the naturalistic approach to lighting and sound crucial to the outdoor staging of Othello made the behind-the-scenes effort on this play smooth and powerful. Onstage, many remarked on leaving the theatre that the Plenty cast was one of the strongest they had ever seen.

See our ‘The French Arrive’ featurette and official play photos.

Press previews from Cherwell and The Oxford Student.

Reviews from The Oxford Student, The Daily Info, The Oxford Culture Review, The Tab and Cherwell.

Launch: the Plenty campaign

Plenty banner

Under the supervision of marketing director Lily Taylor, the online campaign for David Hare’s Plenty – being brought to the O’Reilly Theatre in Oxford this month by director Luke Howarth – launched today with fanfare, photos of the cast and posters designed by Laura Whitehouse. The campaign is set to cover both the visual aspects of Hare’s iconic work with a virtual exhibition of cinematic shots of the characters unfolding in the weeks before opening night, and will also detail the psychological and deeply political content of the text itself, through a series of interviews and video previews.

Lily was previously chief editor of the broadcasting team at Cherwell, and understands well the demands of online video marketing in relation to Facebook and Twitter – targeting the student body who it is hoped will make up the bulk of the audience at the week-long run – while Laura runs an independent graphic design consultancy, and was previously the force behind artwork for Endgame and Othello.

Videos, previews and artwork will appear here as they are released, and tickets for Plenty (running 11-14 February at the O’Reilly) are now available here.

Casting Plenty

O'Reilly

Director Luke Howarth (Othello) is delighted to confirm his cast for David Hare’s masterpiece Plenty as rehearsals start for the 4th week O’Reilly show in a little under three weeks. Familiar faces returning to the stage include Kathy Stocker (Othello, ’Tis Pity, Jerusalem) and Andrew Dickinson (Jerusalem), as well as a number of Oxford theatre heavyweights building on the successes of previous projects at the O’Reilly, and the play’s strong presentation of gender and mental issues in the rarely-explored years following the war.

Plenty stars Kathy Stocker, Aoife Cantrill, Andrew Dickinson, Grainne O’Mahony, Emma Brand, Archie Thomson, George Varley, Shrai Popat and William Yeldham, and opens on February 11th 2015.

Announcing: Plenty

Plenty

Following a bidding process packed with strong competition and three projects vying for each of the four slots at the O’Reilly Theatre for the spring 2015 season, director-producer collaborators Luke Howarth and Andrew Hall (Othello) are delighted to be bringing David Hare’s Plenty to an Oxford stage. Their team was built around the mantra of experience – the ability to deliver on their objectives and avoiding the pitfalls of so many hopeful production teams of the past by using lessons each member of the team has learned personally. Luke has directed and acted in over a dozen productions in the city while Andrew stepped off his fourth successive sell-out show earlier this month, and the pair are surrounded by talent in every role. Lily Taylor, current Broadcasting Editor for Cherwell, takes up the role of marketing director in fulfilling the team’s aim of a comprehensive online, print and press strategy which genuinely delivers on all three fronts, particularly in ensuring that Oxford’s papers carry their weight in driving people to the production. Having come into their own on the hugely ambitious Jerusalem this month for Commensal Theatre, technical directors Mina Ebtehadj-Marquis and Alex Grew are building on their experience in delivering a set worthy of a David Hare play, and designed by Lamorna Ash, a key part of many artistic teams in productions this year. Jerusalem stage manager Ruth Ingamells reprises her role for Plenty too, organising the practical aspects of this twisting exploration into schizophrenia and the role of women in post-war society.

With casting scheduled for the next fortnight and a tough schedule ahead, watch this space for all the updates.