November 22, 2011

Polly Cole, Oxford Playhouse 22nd November 2011

The Oxford Playhouse has been on its present site since 1938 and it has been run as a charity since 1990. It is a ‘playhouse for everyone’ and Polly and the Director have been working to connect with local communities and to develop more diverse audiences. Polly explained that it is a long process but that they have a number of initiatives running, including their attendance at Truck Festival in July this year, where some Spires members saw them during short breaks from cooking bhajees and dahl.

The playhouse has a programme for 50 weeks each year, with a seven week pantomime which is its own production and includes local children. With the exception of the panto there is a different show each week. The Playhouse includes the Burton Taylor Studio which is run for the University and used by the Playhouse out of term time.
The ‘Playhouse Plays Out’ is one of the outreach projects and its members performed at Truck Festival this year. They have also performed at a cafe on the Cowley Road at the Angel & Greyhound pub and on a narrow boat. The aim of this project is to generate interest among a new audience. The core Playhouse audience is older, so it is important to generate younger audiences. This was an Arts Council funded project and has continued since the funding expired.
The Playhouse operates at an average 69% capacity over the year. This compares well with 54% average in regional theatres in the UK. The annual turnover is £3.5million and 65% of that comes from ticket income. The annual fundraising efforts total £230K, from trusts and foundations, individuals, text giving, benefit events and approximately 14% from statutory funders such as the Arts Council.
The theatre gives tickets to groups as part of its aim of widening its audience. This includes groups such as Big Issue sellers, carers and people from Homeless Pathways. Over 90,000 people took up discounted tickets last year, accounting for 60% of all tickets.
The Playhouse conducts approx 100 workshops in schools each year and there are 65 children each year in the youth clubs, many of whom go on to work in the theatre industry. In total, 14,500 people engage with the Playhouse on an educational level. There are also 40 work experience placements each year.
There is a new Spotlight session for over 60s. These are matinees with a talk by the member of the cast, tea and the performance.
The theatre has over 100 volunteers, working mainly as ushers for the 8 shows each week.