The Revue takes on the Fringe

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Filling an impressive 2712 seats over the course of its 25 performances in Assembly’s George Square Studios for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015, Issues showed the Oxford Revue team at its finest and funniest, delivering a host of positive reviews along with delighted Twitter feedback from audiences. From a production standpoint, the show presented challenges both in the geographical spread of its members in the lead-up to Edinburgh and the overwhelming nature of the Fringe itself – this year with some 3600 acts throughout August.

Financially, too, bringing a ten-strong team to Edinburgh for a month is a costly endeavour and a gamble on the mood and reaction of festival audiences, with word-of-mouth and direct advertising the only truly effective ways to bring about serious interest in a show. Nonetheless, the group delivered on all fronts, with regular appearances on the festival’s sold-out boards and the musical escapades of Will, David and Barney proving more than enough to draw the curious to the theatre.

Reviews from EdFringe Review, Broadway Baby and The Student Newspaper.

Edinburgh: first sell-out show

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Things are getting exciting at the 2015 Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the team of the Oxford Revue’s Issues, following their first sell-out show at the 170+ seat Assembly Studio Two in George Square last night. The sketch show, representing the Revue’s 51st appearance at the Fringe, draws on material old and new to carry its audience through the failings of hapless politicians to the musical exploits of football hooligans to a bizarre attempt to refresh the national anthem.

Student comedians Will Hislop, Barney Fishwick and David Meredith are in Edinburgh with the show every day at 5.30pm for the rest of August – tickets are on sale here.

The Oxford Revue in Edinburgh

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The critically acclaimed Oxford Revue returns to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for its 51st year, bringing an hour of hilarious sketch comedy, written and performed by the country’s finest student comedians. Mixing the absurd and the satirical, Issues promises to be the Revue’s sharpest and most subversive show to date. Since it was founded, the Oxford Revue has been the starting point for many of the UK’s best loved comedians, including Rowan Atkinson, Alan Bennett and Michael Palin.

Issues, brought to the Assembly George Square Studios this year by director Nick Davies and starring Barney Fishwick and Will Hislop (Jerusalem) alongside David Meredith, opens on August 5th. Tickets are onsale now – more news to come very soon!

‘Witty, inventive and extremely clever’ ***** (ThreeWeeks)

Presenting: Citric Acid

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When life gives you lemons…

Citric Acid is an absurdist satire for the overeducated and underachieving, revolving around a lemonade stand in Shoreditch—run by two cooler-than-thou uni graduates—where a series of customers (from an alcoholic businessman to Karl Marx) come to buy overpriced, gluten-free lemonade. Throughout, the two central characters, Alice and Ben, run the stand with a combination of servile commercialism and ludicrous academic pretension—a combination that is not unfamiliar to the Oxford undergraduate set.

As the team’s first piece of original writing, from Alex Newton and Mina Odile Ebtehadj-Marquis, and a return to the Burton Taylor Studio for the collaborators of Endgame, the project represents an exciting opportunity to deliver something different to the Oxford theatre scene. Jack Saville joins the group as director, with Alex Grew reprising his role to head up the technical side of things.

Watch this space for more!

Living Together at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

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Forming part of Olivier and Tony Award-winning playwright Alan Acykbourn’s best work The Norman Conquests, Living Together follows the antics of Norman, a romantic with questionable intentions, as he attempts to woo his wife’s sister Annie during a family weekend at the old country house. His interfering sister-in-law, Annie’s dim, would-be boyfriend and his own wife are just some of the obstacles that stand in his way.

It is an honour to be working alongside co-directors Griffith Rees and Laura Cull in bringing this serious, sobering and yet hilariously touching drama from its May run at the Oxford Playhouse to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015. Producing such a project raises the bar from O’Reilly Theatre ventures delivering several hundred sales across five performances, requiring budgets to maintain the cast and crew for the entire month in Edinburgh as well as taking the adventurous set from the proscenium arch stage of the Playhouse and transporting it several hundred miles to Scotland for the summer.

With venues looking to move several thousand tickets during month-long runs, the Fringe offers unparalleled challenges for student theatre. Watch this space for more details as the project storms ahead.

Plenty: final Oxford play

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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

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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.

2014: Commensal Triumph

OliverRobinsonPhotography.com

OliverRobinsonPhotography.com

After three major theatre projects of their own (Endgame, ’Tis Pity and Jerusalem), as well as a large stake in last summer’s Othello and potential backing to further plays next spring and autumn, the Commensal Theatre account looks set to become one of Oxford’s most successful independent theatre companies. Though running against a wide variety of longstanding theatre groups and finance bodies, the core team of director Will Felton, production manager Eshan Shah, technical director Sean Ford and producer Andrew Hall believe that their vehicle has cleared more profit – and most importantly, sold more tickets – per pound spent than any of its rivals.

The scalable nature of theatre as a business within different venues, and even the same space, was hammered home in the difference between margins on Endgame, ’Tis Pity and Jerusalem: the former was held in the 50-seat Burton Taylor studio across five nights, working on a £500 budget to return the same again in profit in a sell-out run. ’Tis Pity drove a much larger £2400 into the O’Reilly Theatre’s 160 seat venue for five performances, reducing capacity on the matinee show to accommodate photographers and accept that there was no need to push for a sell-out audience for that event, with a heady £4000 of potential profit margin left intact. Returning to the same space for Jerusalem, one might expect the sums to remain the same. However, in justifying their splash of £3500 on a lavish and immersive set, the team realised that creating such a spectacle would ensure they could push for maximum capacity of the theatre. Once again, an impressive profit was brought home. This bodes well for future aspirations of projects in ever-larger venues, including the possibility of the Oxford Playhouse next autumn, Fringe tours, and London residencies in the future.

Casting Plenty

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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

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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.