Old Fire Station, Oxford
Arts at the Old Fire Station is a new charity and social enterprise based in Oxford’s hub for creativity. "We are committed to helping local artists make and showcase their work as well as providing great entertainment and exhibitions. Within our building, you will find a shop selling original artwork, a gallery with a wide range of exhibitions, a theatre and studio for dance, drama and music and workshops for artists. We also have space to hire for classes, rehearsals and meetings."
The Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford, OX1 2AQ. 01865 263980.
She’s a Good Boy, 27th April, 19:30
Elise is called pretty the same amount of times as being called sir in an average week. If Elise had £1 for every time someone has asked ‘Are you the best man?’ then Elise would have £2. Elise is often asked, ‘Are you a boy or a girl?’ the answer to this question is: No. She’s A Good Boy is a solo show in which Elise shares their real life experiences of non-binary gender in a striking performance style which verges on stand-up. Moments from the hilarious to the heartbreaking are recreated using physical performance, live music and comedy songs, to share the challenges of a society that is conditioned to see only masculine or feminine. The story is told with energy throughout- from seahorses to spiderman socks, tributes to disgruntled local councillors and wedding day disasters. An honest, moving and hilarious show exploring gender and identity.
It’s Always Infinity, 1st May, 19:30
Tom’s girlfriend has vanished, so he has done what any right minded man would do and turned his search for her into an ‘important’ piece of multi-character-multi-media theatre. In reality It’s Always Infinity is a narrative character comedy show about toxic masculinity and the questionable role of the male creator presented by a version of Tom who sees himself as “One of the good guys” but is anything but. It combines projection, storytelling and character comedy to tell a story where Tom reveals what an awful person he is.
Made In Dagenham, 9th to 11th May, 19:30 and 14:30 on Saturday
Essex 1968. Like millions of other working women, each morning Rita O’Grady is just trying to get her husband out of bed, get the kids off to school and get to work at the factory on time. But life is about to change forever when it’s announced that the girls in the stitching room of Ford’s Dagenham car plant will have their pay grade dropped to ‘unskilled’. Quickly drawing on a strength she never knew she had, Rita leads her friends in a battle against the might of Ford and the corruption of the Union supposed to protect them. As the girls’ inspiring journey gets bigger than anyone could have imagined, can Rita keep up the fight and the happy home she’s worked so hard for? Funny, touching and timeless, Made in Dagenham shows how ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they stand together. The musical is based on the 2010 film Made in Dagenham, which in turn centred around the true-life events of the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968.
Orpheus, 15th May, 19:30
Dave is single and turning 30. He’s stood at the bar. Eurydice is a tree nymph. And Bruce Springsteen is on the juke box. A tale of impossible, death-defying love told through hair-raising spoken word and soaring soul music. The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre weave a world of dive bars, side streets and ancient gods.
Orlando, 16th to 18th May, 19:30
Orlando: Poet. Lover. Adventurer. After an evening’s encounter with a traveller woman, Orlando is transformed forever. Following the sell-out The Tiger’s Bride, Marvellous Machine Theatre Company return with their hilarious and joyful production of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando adapted by Sarah Ruhl. Using live music, comedy, drag and movement, they bring to life Virginia Woolf’s high-spirited, queer romp through history. Join us as we travel from the court of Queen Elizabeth I to 20th Century London, via Constantinople and the high seas.
A Hundred Different Words For Love, 23rd May, 19:30
Three years ago, James met the love of his life. A year ago, they broke up. This is James’s story of falling in love and landing broken hearted. It’s also about him being Best Man of Honour at Sarah and Emma’s wedding. And it’s the story of a quest: to find the right words to make sense of love. A hilarious, heart-lifting story of romance, despair, and friendship – from one of the UK’s most acclaimed storytellers.
Romeo and Juliet, 1st June, 15:00 and 19:30
Curious Pheasant Theatre present Romeo and Juliet. This LGBTQ+, all male production is a bold reimagining of William Shakespeare’s classic love story. The physical theatre piece will use two opposing rugby teams to ground the piece in the 21st century. When the two men meet, the integrity of both teams is compromised and the unyielding pride of men threatens to destroy all that they know.
Reviews of Snowflake
5th to 22nd December 2018
Review from The Times.
This is a new play by Mike Bartlett, the megastar writer for TV and stage who directed his first “proper piece of theatre” at the Old Fire Station in the mid-1990s. He was 18 and living in Oxford and at the time the Fire Station was part nightclub, part theatre. He directed his friend Jonny Donahoe (yes, the comedian). He returned 15 years later to see Donahoe’s play Thirty Christmases and was mightily impressed, by the play and the place.
This is now part theatre, part crisis centre and it is quite something having a Mike Bartlett premiere at such a local hero type venue. But you get the feeling, from the programme note, that it was right for Bartlett too. “That maybe after writing quite a bit of television recently,” he writes (that would be Doctor Foster and Press), “writing a play for the OFS might be what I needed creatively; a challenge to write something very different.”
This play, directed by Clare Lizzimore, is a winner: warm and funny, but also bracing, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it popping up on TV next year at about this time. It’s a “Christmas for adults” tale that begins with a man named Andy sitting in a community hall, fussing about the decorations. He has decorated a tree and built a miniature snowy house scene. “WELCOME BACK,” says the sign behind him. (Brilliant homespun set by Jeremy Herbert.)
Andy is waiting for someone, nervous, practising his lines. At one point he puts on a Christmas jumper with a pudding on it. “Terry and June wore a good one in the 1982 Terry and June Christmas special,” he says. Andy is one of those men who get to middle age and get angry because HMV has changed and Terry and June are no more.
Gradually we figure out that he’s waiting for his daughter, Maya, who left home a few years ago. Andy, who is played by Elliot Levey with great intensity, has heard that she’s back in town. A woman named Esther — who looks like Esther Rantzen, but isn’t — spotted her in a café.
Suddenly, just when Andy’s monologue is getting a little boring, we hear someone at the door. “Hi,” chirps a tall young woman named Natalie in a neon orange puffer jacket. Looking at his crestfallen face she asks: “Were you expecting someone else?”
Natalie (Racheal Ofori) is fascinating, a snowflake millennial who wouldn’t melt in your mouth. Their conversation, about family and Brexit in particular, is riveting (yes, I know, surprising). I won’t give away the ending, but it’s a corker. So, yes, Christmas for grown-ups. Excellent stuff.
Review from The Guardian.
Mike Bartlett's Christmas drama for a divided Britain
A masterfully written generational clash lies at the heart of this timely story rich in insight, poignancy and optimism
It is a quite a coup for this bustling arts centre to have secured a new Mike Bartlett play for Christmas. The result is a poignant story of an estranged father and daughter that becomes a much wider study, even encompassing Brexit, of generational conflict. Its great virtue is that – as in Albion and King Charles III – Bartlett shows a rare capacity to be fair towards both sides of an argument.
Andy is a middle-aged man who has hired an Oxfordshire village hall on Christmas Eve in the hope of welcoming back his daughter, Maya, who walked out on him after the death of her mother. The first part is a monologue in which Andy relives his desperate attempts to trace his daughter while revealing, through references to Terry and June, Notting Hill and Knight Rider, that he is a man stuck in the past. But the stakes are raised with the arrival of a young woman, Natalie, who has seemingly come to collect some crockery but who challenges Andy’s political and social values.
At the risk of sounding like Andy, I was momentarily reminded of John Osborne’s 1964 play Inadmissible Evidence, in which the hero attacks the youth culture of the day. But Bartlett astutely tempers Andy’s retro attitudes with some shrewd points such as the suggestion that identity politics has supplanted a concern with class and economics.
While Natalie quickly detects any hint of middle-aged misogyny and passionately articulates the case for remain in the big debate, she is not without a hint of self-righteousness. Without giving the game away, Bartlett argues that we have to hope for some form of private and public reconciliation in fractured times.
Clare Lizzimore’s production brings out the story’s emotion while carefully balancing its points of view and is excellently acted. Elliot Levey captures precisely Andy’s neediness, frustration and tendency to patronise the young, Racheal Ofori is bright-eyed and sharp-witted as Natalie and Ellen Robertson puts in a late, touching appearance as Maya. You could argue that the situation is contrived, but this is a seasonal show with a heart and mind.
Review from The Financial Times.
There are four principal species of Christmas stage shows: traditional pantomimes, serious dramas with seasonal settings, comic pieces from other tales or original stories, and children’s/family shows, which are usually adaptations from kids’ books and scheduled for daytime performances. Having no tiny colleagues to accompany me, I’ve neglected the final category and visited representatives of the other three.
The Old Fire Station in Oxford prides itself on offering “Christmas shows for grown-ups”; it’s also vaguely appropriate that a venue co-run with the homelessness charity Crisis presents a show about a nervous father preparing to meet with the daughter who left home two years earlier. Playwright Mike Bartlett is accomplished at interrogating our liberal assumptions, and here creates a figure who is hyper-conscious of possible incorrectness in certain areas while blind to his alienating conduct where it counts. It’s an excellent performance by Elliot Levey, under Clare Lizzimore’s direction. Bartlett is also moving ever farther into his provocative territory; where several of his earlier plays merely identify the argument, Snowflake actually has it out — and finds a tentatively affirmative resolution. ’Tis the season, after all.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
This could be the play of the year
'If there are still tickets, go' says N2's reviewer
Snowflake, at the Old Fire Station, Oxford, until Saturday, December 22
Mike Bartlett, a dramatist local to Oxford and best known for his television dramas Doctor Foster and Press and the stage hit King Charles III, has written one of the plays of the year – Snowflake – for Oxford's inspirational Old Fire Station theatre.
Directed with total clarity by Clare Lizzimore, the central character is Andy (Elliot Levey), a curly-haired, greying, middle-aged widower, whose cultural references are several decades old. He has agonised over the decision of his absent teenage daughter Maya to disappear from his life without explanation.
Now, someone in a cafe in the centre of Oxford has told him that Maya has returned to the city. Andy has left a desperate message for her to meet him in a church hall which he has festooned with decorations, a model house with an iced-over pond in the garden and a welcome back sign (designer, Jeremy Herbert). Andy does not know how to turn on the Christmas lights for his display
The first 40 minutes are a monologue where Andy mulls over his life, and reconsiders his relationship with Maya.
During the monologue we don't know if Maya, whom we assume to be the snowflake referred to, will be the Iceman who cometh or Godot, who doesn't.
Levey is brilliant at showing his growing anxiety while exuding false confidence. It is therefore a real surprise when the first half ends with the entrance of a young black woman, Natalie (Racheal Ofori, so natural she does not appear to be acting), and not the hoped-for Maya. Andy discovers that Natalie is most definitely not a snowflake and is strangely omniscient and wise.
The second half is structurally different from the first – mostly a duologue in the form of a verbal tennis match between Natalie and Andy where she is censorious of Andy's attitude and behaviour to Maya when Maya was a teenager. Natalie introduces issues of gender, race and even Brexit (Andy voted Leave, one of the 30 per cent in Oxford) to critique Andy's outdated world view.
The twist at the end is worth waiting for.
If there are still tickets, go.
There is a review from The Stage ("Mike Bartlett's new play is heart-warming, topical Christmas show for grown ups, constructed with care and craft" - 4 stars).
Snowflake, 5th to 22nd December 2018
For more details
Go to the web site at www.oldfirestation.info.