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

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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…)

Spring is coming, and with it Oxford’s very own festival of dance Dancin’ Oxford in its 2018 edition.  Lots of fascinating peformances to come with an emphasis on physical theatre and storytelling as well as some tantalising workshops and taster sessions.  See below for Oxford Dance Writers list of performance events and dates in Oxford with links to further information and booking details.  Check out the Dancin’ Oxford website for details of additional performances in Didcot and Banbury, as well as workshops and classes and the Dance and Academia conference. (more…)

A cross between The Office and a cage-fight, Australian style: straight from their critically acclaimed performances in Australia, The Farm presents the first UK tour of Cockfight, an exhilarating duet of extreme physical theatre that explores male behaviour and intergenerational conflicts. Coming to Pegasus Theatre on Friday 20 October as part of Oxford Playhouse’s Playhouse Plays Out scheme, it illustrates the interaction between two men from different generations, trapped in an all too familiar and universal environment – the office.

Born out of a very real relationship between performers Joshua (33 years old) and Gavin (50 years old), this is about two men who exist side by side, share space, resources, time and responsibility and justify their existence in relation to each other. Their physical action is underpinned by a fierce co-dependency in a duet of slow-motion fight sequences, interlocking rolls and tackles and Buster Keaton-esque battles of supremacy.

The Farm is an international network of highly respected artists, ranging from choreographers and independent dancers to musicians and designers. The artistic direction of the company is led by Gavin Webber and Grayson Millwood who have been making work together for the past fifteen years across four continents. Performed by Gavin Webber and Joshua Thomson, and developed by The Farm in partnership with guest artist Julian Louis, Cockfight is a powerful physical performance about male dominance and the exhibition of masculinity.

Performance:  Friday 20th October 7.30pm

Venue:  Pegasus Theatre, Magdalen Rd, Oxford OX4 1RE

Tickets:  £19 available from the Playhouse Ticket Office on 01865 305305 or book online at www.oxfordplayhouse.com

This autumn the dynamic, dazzling and delightful Ballet Black returns to Oxford Playhouse with a fresh triple bill of dances.  Artistic Director Cassa Pancho once again commissions bold choreography, blending the classical and contemporary, narrative and abstract, for a company comprising British and international dancers of black and Asian descent.

A four-hander characterised by intricate detail and propulsive energy, Captured ebbs and flows to the fiery emotion of Martin Lawrance’s edgy choreography, set to a Shostakovich string quartet. First premiered in 2012, Captured was an instant audience and critical success.  French choreographer, Ludovic Ondiviela, presents Dopamine (you make my levels go silly), a beautiful pas de deux about love, lust and passion, with an original score created by acclaimed British composer, Fabio D’Andrea.  South Bank Sky Arts Award-winner Annabelle Lopez Ochoa turns a popular fairy tale on its head, as Red Riding Hood is given a surprising twist.

“Dash, daring and joie-de-vivre”  The Guardian

“A funny, gutsy spin on the traditional fairytale that’s clearly a riot to dance”  The Guardian on Red Riding Hood

Performance:  Wednesday 4th October,  7.30pm

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

Tickets:  £10 – £25 available from the Ticket Office on 01865 305305 or book online at www.oxfordplayhouse.com

Age guideline: 7 years plus

Find out more about Ballet Black here

Read Susie Crow’s review of their previous performance at the Oxford Playhouse in 2016  here