Oxford Playhouse: High and Low Drama in a University City

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Univ of Hertfordshire Press, 2008 - Drama - 343 pages
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To coincide with the 70th anniversary of its present home on Beaumont Street, Oxford, this account traces the history of the Oxford Playhouse from its earliest roots—a production of Agamemnon in 1880—and the founding of the Oxford University Dramatic Society to the rebuilding of Oxford's New Theatre and, eventually, the launch of the Playhouse itself. Recalling actress Jane Ellis' early desire for a venue where she might play decent roles, as well as her efforts to make it happen, the book also celebrates a galaxy of stars who have acted there, including Flora Robson, John Gielgud, Maggie Smith, Ronnie Barker, Judi Dench, and Helena Bonham Carter, and records the first steps of students such as Rowan Atkinson. In addition to chronicling developments in the theater's management and architecture, this comprehensive tribute explores its highbrow and lowbrow programs, its period of prosperity and postwar collapse, and its unique and vital relationship with the University of Oxford.

  

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Contents

List of Figures 1 Jane Ellis Mander and Mitchenson Theatre Collection frontispiece
1
Oxford rediscovers serious drama
11
Aeschylus Agamemnon at Balliol College 1880 Bodleian Library
13
A Suggestion for the Pantomime Season Shrimpton postcard caricature c 1884
16
A young obscure actress provides a venue
27
Caricature of Dr Lewis Farnell by kind permission of the Rector and Fellows of Exeter College
34
A highbrow programme
41
The Oxford Playhouse Woodstock Road 1938 Minn Collection Bodleian Library
42
The builders beginning work in Beaumont Street FebruaryMarch 1938 OPA
108
A period of prosperity
117
Eric Dance at the opening of the present Oxford Playhouse in 1938
118
The Playhouse auditorium October 1938 Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive
119
Celia Chaundy Playhouse manager 193949 Kenny Parker OPA
121
Pamela Brown and Robert Eddison in Romeo and Juliet 1940 OPA
122
Frank Shelley at the piano with Raymond Somerville Kenny Parker OPA
129
Patricia Gilder in Sheridans A Trip to Scarborough 1949 Kenny Parker OPA
131

Act II of Shaws Heartbreak House the opening production in 1923
44
What Every Woman Student Knows the tribulations of chaperonage by C E Escritt The Isis 1924
47
Caricature of James Bernard Fagan directing 77ie Cherry Orchard The Isis 1925
50
A Comedy of Good and Evil by Richard Hughes 1925
52
A tepid response
57
Nugent Monck directing Monteverdis Orpheus 1925 OPA courtesy of Gillian Winsey
58
Creating the deluge for Arnold Ridleys The God o Mud 1926 OPA
62
A lowbrow programme fails too
79
On Approval by Frederick Lonsdale 1930 OPA
83
Margaret Rutherford as Dona Barbarita in The Romantic Young Lady 1931 OPA
85
The move to Beaumont Street
97
The Playhouse team c 1936 Courtesy of Gillman Soame photographers
98
Stage Manager Diana Harris featured in the Daily Mirror 1936
103
Chekhovs The Seagull 1948 Kenny Parker OPA
132
The postwar collapse
139
Playhouse School students Margaret Maggie Smith and Jean Wagstaff in Pickup Girl 1951 Kenny Parker OPA
141
Highbrow again
161
The university takes over
179
The Arts Council flatters to deceive
207
Making subsidy go further
229
Under siege
251
The dream collapses
269
A fresh beginning and a multimillion pound refit
291
Bibliography
306
Index
313
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

Don Chapman is the former drama critic for the Oxford Mail, a position he held for 35 years.

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