Oxford Playhouse welcomes the internationally-acclaimed Clod Ensemble for the first time on Monday 20 and Tuesday 21 May with their new show On The High Road: an intoxicating explosion of music, movement and light.  This highly anticipated new production is a gripping, vivid piece of theatre which combines a stark monochrome design, kaleidoscopic movement and exhilarating music. The central image feels especially relevant in a world in which difference and intolerance, displacement, refuge and climate change are omnipresent, and we must work out how to live together.

A disparate group of people find themselves caught in a terrible storm On The High Road. Whether old or young, pilgrim or party-goer, they must all seek refuge under the same roof. As the night draws in, they dream, pray, dance, party and fight – waiting for the dawn to come. At once dance, theatre and gig – On The High Road’s turbulent blend of movement and music defies categorisation.

Directed by Suzy Willson, a dynamic company of outstanding dancers, actors and singers warp time and perspective to create an epic moving sculpture. We watch human beings as if under a microscope, attempting to share space within their homes, cities, states and continents.

Suzy Willson said: “We have always been fascinated by how the spaces we inhabit affect how we relate to each other, how we move and feel. In On The High Road we wanted to explore the relationships between patterns of movement and these spaces, within our own bodies, our homes, families, cities, and continents. We wanted to squeeze it all within a small white structure on the stage.”

Paul Clark’s original score counterpoints wind howls, downpours and thunderclaps with the brilliance of the human voice. Twisted classical textures stumble into drunken bar-room pianos, and mournful songs build to pulsating clubby rhythms. Featuring live performances from Irish folk singer Thomas McCarthy (Gradam Ceoil TG4’s Singer of the Year 2019), acclaimed soprano Melanie Pappenheim and renowned cabaret singer George Heyworth, one half of Bourgeois & Maurice, the production will offer a true gig experience.

Paul Clark said: ‘There are two main forces at work in the score; the sounds of a storm and the sound of the human voice. All of the music we hear emerges out of a soundscape made out of sampled and processed audio; wind howls, downpours, thunderclaps, rattling lamp posts. It is a hostile sonic environment, always threatening to overwhelm any human attempt to tame it or even be heard. But as the piece progresses three singers find a space for song in this maelstrom – dreamlike evocations of remembered music all haunted by the violent storm that roars away outside.’

Performances:  Monday and Tuesday 20th & 21st May, 7.30pm

Venue:  Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxfor OX1 2LW

Tickets: £22, £19, £15, £10 – Contact Ticket Office on 01865 305305 or book online at www.oxfordplayhouse.com.

Please note that strobe light effects are used during this performance.

Duration: 1 hour 15 mins with no interval

There will be a post show talk after Monday’s performance.

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Grey Matter – Choreography: Benoit Swan Pouffer

There was a lot of drama in this piece, from the striking white sheer costumes with splatters of blood-like red, to the beating bass of the music by GAIKA. The dancers appeared almost animalistic, and there was certainly an undercurrent of threat throughout the piece. There was a constant shifting between fluidity – the dancers writhing in a serpentine manner – and violence at other points, as they crept on tiptoe as if stalking prey.
Some strong characters broke away from the crowd, with some sense of narrative through the piece, but overall there was a sense of anonymity, without a huge amount of interaction between the dancers. This sometimes gave a strong vision of a faceless crowd with some individuals trying to escape; but at other times, the stage felt a little too ‘busy’ and it wasn’t always easy to follow the direction of the piece. However it was certainly an engaging start to the evening, and the edginess of the choreography was matched by the lighting, soundtrack and costumes, so it felt like a cohesive world. (more…)

The 2019 Dancin’ Oxford Festival brings a powerful and varied programme of dance to the city. It features shows and workshops for children, teenagers, dance enthusiasts and for the dance curious.  This year we are introducing our Festival Hub, in the Oxford Playhouse’s Lucy Room, where dance lovers can pop in for free tea, coffee and a chat.

The Festival, now in its 13th year, is funded by Oxford City Council and Arts Council England. Claire Thompson, Oxford City Council Arts Officer said ‘Although the Festival has no central theme several of this year’s companies have mental health issues at the heart of their work, which reflects current contemporary concerns. The shows are far from being all doom and gloom and offer thought provoking dance of the highest quality. We have a new venue for the Festival Launch on 2 March which will be held on a dance stage inside Westgate Oxford. We are delighted with this new location which will offer great views for everyone.’

The Festival Launch is an exciting and awe-inspiring afternoon of dance featuring breathtaking shows from professional and local youth dance companies. There will also be opportunities to join in a Zumba Party and learn African and Street Dance moves.  The annual Moving with the Times platform comprises 3 specially commissioned pieces by Dancin’ Oxford and Pegasus Theatre and features emerging companies, with work this year by Jann Esterhuizen Company, Joe Lott Company and returning Richard Chappell Dance.

Stuart Walters’ Rock Bottom is a moving dance solo based on the dancer’s own struggles with depression and addition. Two Oxford based companies are also looking into mental health. Body Politic, now on its first national tour, examines the fragility and vulnerabilities in men and young boys and Dance Creative offers the raw story of a daughter and her mother with early onset dementia.

Uchenna Dance will bring a flamboyance and colour with its blend of African and contemporary dance with The Head Wrap Diaries.  The Chit Chat Chalk Show will help children discover what makes them unique.

You can find full details of all the events and participatory workshops here, but below is a listing of performance events and discussion at a glance:

Moving with the Times platform- Richard Chappell Dance, Jann Esterhuizen Company, Joe Lott Company, contemporary dance

Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd March 7.30pm,  Sat. mat 2.30pm, Pegasus Theatre

Festival Launch – including performances by Company Chameleon, Messy Jam Dance Co, Step2Dance, Hakeem Omnibudo and his Impact Academy Dancers.

2nd March 12pm – 5pm, Leiden Square, Westgate Oxford

Festival Hub – speakers Emma-Jane Morbey AD Body Politic, Claire Thompson Director Dancin’ Oxford Festival, Paula Redway Cultural Development Manager at Oxford City Council, Susie Crow Ballet in Small Spaces and Oxford Dance Writers, Segolene Tarte Oxford Dance Forum, Angela Conlan Director Dance Creative.

Monday 3rd – Saturday 9th March 12 – 2pm, Oxford Playhouse

The Head Wrap Diaries – Uchenna Dance, fusion African and contemporary dance forms

2nd March 7pm, Kingsmere Community Centre, Bicester

Boys and Girls – The Pappy Show

2nd March 7.30pm, The North Wall

Mixtape – Dotdotdot Dance, contemporary flamenco

5th March 8pm, The North Wall

Rock Bottom – Stuart Waters, solo dance

6th March 7.30pm, Old Fire Station

A Million Memories – Dance Creative, interactive event with dance, music and poetry

7th March at 6pm, History of Science Museum

Works by Rafael Bonachela, Sharon Eyal and Benoit Swan Pouffer – Rambert2, contemporary dance

Friday 8th & Saturday 9th March, Friday 8 pm, Sat 2.30 & 7.30pm, Oxford Playhouse

Father Figurine – Body Politic, hip-hop dance and spoken word

8th March 7.30pm, The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury

The Chit Chat Chalk Show – Hawk Dance Theatre and The Knotted Project, children’s show

9th March 11am & 2pm, The North Wall

Ticketed events: from £3 for taster workshops;

Oxford Playhouse www.ticketsoxford.com 01865 305305,

www.pegasustheatre.org.uk 01865 812 150, www.thenorthwall.com 01865 319450,

www.themillartscentre.co.uk 01295 290 002, www.hsm.ox.ac.uk

 

Audiences can’t resist the “joyously unpredictable” (Guardian) programmes danced by Ballet Black, returning for their third visit to Oxford Playhouse.

Led by Artistic Director Cassa Pancho, this company celebrates dancers of black and Asian descent, showcasing technique, precision and grace in specially commissioned pieces. As part of their latest double bill, Cathy Marston, renowned for her expressive and beautifully crafted work, has choreographed a new narrative ballet for the Company. Inspired by Can Themba’s South African fable The Suit, this is the first dance adaptation of the affecting short story.  Completing the evening is Arthur Pita’s Olivier nominated A Dream Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a heady piece of dance-theatre for which Pita also earned a Critics’ Circle and South Bank Award nomination following its premiere in 2014.

Performance:  Wednesday 7th November 7.30pm

Venue:  Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford, UK, OX1 2LW 

Tickets:  £25/£20/£15/£10  Book online here or call the Box Office on 01865 305305

Age Guideline 12+

Duration: 1 hour 35mins with interval

Find out more about Ballet Black here

Read previous ODW reviews of Ballet Black performances here and here

This riotous and colourful production had a lot to recommend it. The Rumplestiltskin fairytale was given a new twist, with the title role a more rounded character and sympathetic backstory than in traditional renditions. This was a clever device (with credit to Carol Ann Duffy as Scenario Writer), as the storyline became less about old-fashioned heroes and villains, and more about values such as family, community and embracing difference and diversity. (more…)

Following the success of Rapunzel and Snow White, award winning balletLORENT returns to Oxford Playhouse with the final show in their trilogy of fairytales, Rumpelstiltskin, directed by Liv Lorent.  Full of action and humour, this emotionally rich story retold by Carol Ann Duffy is set in a rural world of sheep, straw, wool and spinning; where the alchemist Rumpelstiltskin is outcast until he is revealed to be ‘the true prince that he was’.  With choreography by Liv Lorent and the company involving a local intergenerational cast, a score by Doctor Who composer Murray Gold, costumes designed by Michele Clapton (Game of Thrones), narration by actor Ben Crompton, this is dance theatre for 21st Century family audiences.

Phil Eddolls (set design) and Malcolm Rippeth (lighting design) once again join the world class collaborators team, along with associate lighting designer Michael Morgan, to create a visually stunning setting for Rumpelstiltskin.

“It is a thing of magic and beauty, not so much a cautionary tale but one of hope and reconciliation.” David Whetstone, Newcastle Evening Chronicle (*****)

“It’s a fitting, sumptuous and beautifully realised production to bring the five years of the trilogy to its culmination and well deserved the enthusiasm and standing ovation with which it was greeted.” Peter Latham, British Theatre Guide

“Fabulous show – beautiful to watch, wonderful storytelling and choreography; a very special evening..” Northern Stage Audience Member

“I haven’t enjoyed a show so much for a long time. I was delighted and left in tears by your production.” Northern Stage Audience Member

Performances:  Friday 1st June 7.00pm, Saturday 2nd June 2.00pm & 7.00pm

Venue:  Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2LW

Tickets:  £10-£21, book online here or call the Box Office on 01865 305305

Duration:  Approximately 1 hour 40 minutes with interval

Age guideline:  7 plus

Find out more about the company and the production here

“Spring is coming…” I wrote in posting an advance round-up of performance and other events for this year’s edition of Dancin’ Oxford Festival 1st – 11th March 2018. It would perhaps have been more appropriate to post “Winter is coming…” as the arrival of the “Beast from the East” took some casualties in the first weekend of programming. Heavy snowfall and consequent travel disruption led to the postponement to a later date (to be announced) of the one day Dance and Academia conference, with several guest speakers unable to get there. That same day (Saturday 3rd March) Company Chameleon’s performance at Pegasus Theatre was also cancelled.

Other companies who had arrived in Oxford a day or two earlier before the snow were able to continue with scheduled performances in true “the show must go on” style, and with encouragingly healthy audiences. At the end of Theatre Ad Infinitum’s Friday evening performance of Odyssey at The North Wall, performer George Mann gave a heartfelt thanks to those that had made it. I found this lively retelling of Homer’s great story of journey and homecoming well worth crunching through silent snowy streets for. (more…)