Oxford’s Offbeat is a festival of brand-new theatre, comedy, dance, family shows, spoken word and music.  A collaboration between Oxford Playhouse and Arts at the Old Fire Station now in its 3rd edition, it offers a host of opportunities to see something which wouldn’t usually come here.  It’s a blind date with a show you could fall in love with – right on your doorstep.

Take a chance on something exciting. This year’s festival runs from Monday 17th to Saturday 29th June with performances across the Old Fire Station and Burton Taylor Studio.  Here is a list of the dance shows:

Eleven, twelve, thirteen – Friday 21st June 6.00-7.00pm, Old Fire Station.  Ages 12+. Tickets £10, book online here

Eleven, twelve, thirteen explores the importance of numbers in our lives, from the significance of the number 11 in the world around us through to the iconic era of the Sufis during the 1200s and a light-hearted exploration of the troublesome thirTEENS. The production comprises a variety of original pieces that innovatively combine dance, music and the spoken word, and sprout unique collaborations between UK’s finest young British Asian artists across genres. Sona Lisa Dance Company is a Birmingham (England) based dance company set up by Artistic Director Sonia Chandaria Tillu in 2018, building a dance style and vocabulary based on one of the oldest classical Indian dance forms, Kathak, but speaking to contemporary audiences.

“…I also admired Sonia Chandaria Tillu for the way in which she contained and then released energy… the performance only lasted an hour, but I could have watched these dancers all night.” – Maggie Watson (Oxford Dance Writers) review on Sonia as a guest performer in FACET for Drishti Dance at the Offbeat Festival 2018

Find out more about the production and Sona Lisa Dance Company here

Jane – Saturday 22nd June at 12pm, 1.30pm and 3.30pm, Gloucester Green. Each performance lasts 20 minutes.  All ages, free – just come along.

A new dance theatre piece from Moxie Brawl looking inside the head of pre-Raphaelite artists’ muse Jane Morris. Playing with power, femininity with a touch of art history.  With bright blue costumes that turn into puppets, mesmerising choreography and cheeky performers, this show will brighten up your day as we tell Jane’s story.

‘Gloriously unsubtle’ – The Observer

Findo out more about Moxie Brawl here

A Moment – Tuesday 25th, Wednesday 26th, Thursday 27th June 8.30-9.30pm, Old Fire Station.  Suitable for all ages.  Tickets £10, book online here

‘I used to be interested in clothes, clubs, buying records. And men. Now my life…what life?’  Two performers explore what it was to be gay in the 80s when the UK was full of fear and ignorance, in a response to Bren Gosling’s ‘Moment of Grace’. An intimate duet moving through themes of paranoia, intimacy and oppression. The work also gives thanks to those who made it possible to say “HIV is no longer a death sentence.”

Thomas Page Dances is part of Offbeat’s supported artist programme.

★★★★ “In a different league” – The Sunday Express

Find out more about the production and Thomas Page Dances here

Sound Cistem – Wednesday 26th, Thursday 27th, Friday 28th June 7.00-7.50pm, Old Fire Station Studio. Ages 14+.  Tickets £5, book online here

“These are our bodies. What do you see?”  Two transgender performers say f**k you to the binary, and invite you to their radically queer dance party!  Set in nightclubs, Sound Cistem is an exuberant dance show about the cisgender gaze on the transgender body. Through riotous, glittering disco, shame is rejected and a self-love manifesto made. Unafraid to punch hard, Sound Cistem asks you to see the beauty in these bodies: and your own too.  This is a work in progress.

Plaster Cast Theatre is part of Offbeat’s supported artist programme.

Praise for their previous work:  ★★★★ “Unflinching” – The Scotsman
★★★★ “Gripping” – The List  ★★★★ “Extremely powerful” – North West End
★★★★★ Spectacular” – The Mancunion

Find out more about the production and Plaster Cast Theatre here

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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.

“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…)

This show promised huge energy, masculine physicality and comedy, and it didn’t disappoint. Playing out the power shifts between an older and younger man, the piece cleverly portrayed an ever-changing relationship. At once reliant and rejecting, the pair circled each other endlessly (both literally and metaphorically), each trying to gain – or retain – dominance.

The opening sequence set a striking, almost macabre tone: a series of frozen tableaus depicting the power play between the two characters was set against a dramatic score and even more dramatic lighting.   From this intense beginning, a much lighter and more accessible office comedy then played out. A pared-down but very funny script was performed seamlessly by Joshua Thomson and Gavin Webber; there was such a sense of flow and ease that I wondered how much of this was improvised – clearly the two men were having a lot of fun, playing games and sparring with one another. (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

OffBeat is a hive of new performance in Oxford, a festival of brand-new theatre, comedy, dance, family shows, spoken word and music. It’s a place for you to see something which wouldn’t usually come here. It’s a blind date with a show you could fall in love with. And – lucky you – it’s right on your doorstep.  Take a chance on something exciting.

A collaboration between Oxford Playhouse and Arts at the Old Fire Station, with short performances across the Old Fire Station and BT Studio.  See below for a summary of shows for dance lovers: (more…)