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Taylor made for Burton
Oxford Playhouse (Oxford)
Member Name: 1st2thebar
Oxford Playhouse (Oxford)
Date: 11/03/13, updated on 12/03/13 (44 review reads)
Advantages: Acoustics, ambiance, and lustrous history.
Disadvantages: Lack of leg room - expect a numb-bum.
There is something 'Windows 95' about a membership database that doesn't compute while 'updating details', such as: your correct name. Of course, this happened to me, when a work-experience staff member of the Oxford Playhouse initially added a letter (s) to the end of my surname. This was when I was accepted as an honorary member of the 'OP Production Database' - naturally, a proud moment for me but slightly tarnished by being plural - there is only one of me and frankly for the good of the human race I'm glad this is the case. I'm not for cloning either, as I'll be worried what the other me is thinking - assuming that clones think. After getting the production listings via snail-mail for five years the urge to knock the (s) off the end of my surname became too enticing. I decided to inform the 'OP' database staff of this plural error - After forty five minutes of; 'umming and haahaa-ring' while occupying the Foyer, I swung out the double-doors and gulped in CO2 vehicle fumes. My mail ire vanished as the update had been granted - the Playhouse's archaic computer system had accepted me as I really am on paper. Any other establishment I would've given five minutes maximum before bursting a blood-vessel, but the Playhouse staff gave me a cappuccino and a wafer-biscuit, to compensate for the timely ordeal. Deep down I actually liked the clunky, whirly workstation and the staff etiquette, who worked tirelessly to please a theatergoer. They apologized profusely, I apologized profusely, for not being plural and they now annually give me free tickets to a production, usually at the beginning of the panto-season. 'Oh yes they do' - and it gives a license for my Nieces to screech in an auditorium - usually pre-commence of the production and untimely during the production.
Architecturally theatres are renowned for incorporating trap-doors and fulcrums into the plans and Maufe the Oxford Playhouse's architect probably the only one who knows where they all are. Bespoke in erecting monumental, commemorative blocks of ornate architecture - Maufe's enthusiasm in building a Playhouse that had nooks and crannies, bells and whistles, with a purpose to entertain, must've stimulated his creativity. The Playhouse exterior was to be in-keeping with the Beaumont Street design and street plan - and visually Maufe kept to the script; in 1938 the Playhouse was finished. A small eloquent theatre - facilitated with a big heart, this resonated the beauty of Oxford - A place for performance, drama, epitomizing a middle class man's lounge - albeit, the womb shape Auditorium interior elevated audio from the stage and surrounding vicinity, no lounge has such eccentricities, surely. Acoustically the Oxford Playhouse is 'sound,' every morsel of audio is on stage, including the creak of the 'Fire Exit' door.
My first experience of the OP (Oxford Playhouse) began on a warm evening in June 2002. The highly acclaimed Irish Playwright Sebastian Barry was on show - well he wasn't, but his dense vision of politics, imperialism and its effects on relationships, the play was called: 'Hinterland'. The dull-lit stage, accentuated the totalitarian mood, a stark contrast to a bright evening in June. Threads of rococo swirls are an eye-catching distraction as you eye wanders and the mottled crimson flooring complimented the curved, shell-like seats - joined together as if they're holding metaphoric hands. Rather intimate, too cosy if a play encouraged a full-house, I felt - although I didn't experience such an event till viewing; Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Earnest'; a Whyman production during the late summer of 2005. The theatre became frightfully intimate and I wondered how it compared to 'The Old Vic' in London (built in 1818). My conclusion: the theatres' were at each end of a vein, on the same leaf. Whyman's production was an opportunity to witness the acting prowess of my old school mate Dominic Rowan who was playing 'Algernon' - His forte is periodic dramas so this was right up his alley. 'Algernon's' banter with 'Jack' was suitably spiffy Wildean. All of them talented and used the theatre's ambiance too their advantage - echoic for performance emphasis. What is it with Irish playwrights 'dead or alive' who demand my attendance?
The 'OP' stage is closer to the audience - to the point it doesn't detach itself via an opening or closing of a curtain, and the musician quarters are hovelled together adjacent to the stage steps, not ideal for a claustrophobic musician - who's only visible if a rampant joyous tune stimulated quickened head bobbing. Their side-doors reminded me of quaint twelfth century dwarf doors to a church pew - I wasn't aware Sir Edward Maufe the architect was a slight man - yet the beautifully crafted seating area definitely wouldn't be suffice for a cumbersome derriere, leg-room notably cramped if over six foot tall, or have long legs. My patella has complained somewhat on lengthily productions. Thankfully, most I've encountered do have a break half way through - well, the actors require vocal lubrication the same as my ceased up knee joints require maneuvering.
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Stalls - 18 on the Ground Floor: 13 - 16 seats - first four front stalls: 16 - 27 seats are in the lower to centre stalls: 27 stalls to the back. Circle First Floor - 7 stalls 27 seats in each stall.
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'Jack and the Beanstalk', 'Mother Goose', 'Dick Whittington' productions, brings lighter, jovial content which encourages the adults just as much as their children. OP has had 'Xtra Factor' staff who're on stage to galvanized silliness and stalk the audiences for embarrassed gents to step up to the performance plate in December 2012. One year I had the pleasure of being Mother Goose's love interest, I learned quickly it was apparent a special seat is advocated to participating parties. Noticeably it is always the males who get soaked by water pistols, wet toilet rolls, and usually gets roped into doing something unmanly. I'm not complaining, duly on the promise of free tickets later on this year again. At present, the Andy Parsons skit-show is a crowd-puller - although I'm more incline / addicted to the aristocrat capitalistic dense proses of the Irish kind to get my creative embers glowing - or I could be swayed to an Alan Bennett offering. With the British Art Council funding the Playhouse until there is zero money in the pot - I wonder when they'll be forced to up the stall fee; it is 15 to 30 GBP per head depending on performance, actors and demand - soon another factor will take effect, called: 'theatre survival' - hopefully the austere period won't dent the audience numbers, enthusiasm for theatre, and eagerness for their array of light refreshments and hot beverages at 'Pret a Manger' prices on the right of the Foyer. Normally I would grumble and abstain from refueling but I remind myself I'm on their monthly database, they made a grandiose effort to knock the (s) at the end of my surname, they gave me a free hot drink, free tickets for the mandatory pantomime, free product listing via snail mail. All this and they're a charity - a charity that's been a platform for film 'greatness', 'has beens' and 'Mr Bean' - and been applauded by those who're 'Gielgud and feeling good'. Of course, I appreciated the silence, ambient noise, sweet wrapper cracking, the emotional roller-coaster of the performances, and the rumble of the traffic on Beaumont Street, the pivotal swing and squeak of the chair, the susurration awe of an audience in unison, locked in the drama of a confined space.
Worth a visit.
Summary: 'The Old Vic' in miniature, without the curtain.