The Oxfordshire Blue Plaques scheme promotes recognition and awareness of people, places and events that have been of lasting significance in the life of Oxfordshire or more widely.
The Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board in association with the Director and Board of Oxford Playhouse announce the unveiling of a Blue Plaque to commemorate the former theatre.
The striking building later popularly known as the Red Barn, opposite Somerville, housed Oxford’s first repertory theatre 1923–1938. Three people deserve particular recognition for its creation: Jane Ellis, a young London actress who was determined that Oxford should have its own repertory company; Alfred Ballard, an Oxford auctioneer and keen amateur actor, who had recently bought the former big game museum and was able to provide a suitable auditorium; the celebrated director J.B.Fagan who agreed to take on the challenge of the new venture.
Among the early Oxford Players who trod the boards at the newly named Oxford Playhouse were young actors who went on to become famous names of stage and screen: John Gielgud, Flora Robson, Tyrone Guthrie, Robert Donat, Margaret Rutherford, to name a few. The opening production on 22 October 1923 was of George Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House and Shaw himself attended a performance. In the first pantomime, Dick Whittington, in 1933, the principal boy was played by Joan Hickson, later famous for her role as TV’s definitive Miss Marple.
By the late 1930s the Playhouse had outgrown the adapted auditorium and funds were raised for the purpose-built theatre at Beaumont Street. It opened in October 1938 with a production of And So To Bed by J.B.Fagan, a tribute to the founding director.
Tickets for events at Oxford Playhouse are available from the Ticket Office on 01865 305305 or book online at www.oxfordplayhouse.com
All subjects suggested for Blue Plaques are considered by the Board according to the same criteria. The main point of the scrutiny is to ensure that the person, place or event commemorated is of lasting and clear significance. www.oxfordshireblueplaques.org.uk