After careful research – namely an investigation of Caroline Flack’s Twitter and recalling when ‘exam lifestyle’ (read: McCoys and reality television) began last year – it appears that Love Island will not return until early June. This leaves an intimidating stretch of empty time to fill, so Cherwell Theatre has selected the productions which will drag you from the edge of despair. Refreshing new comedy, drama in translation, the return of the garden play: here is the most promising theatre of the first half of Trinity.
Week 1: Death By Murder at the Michael Pilch Studio
First week sees the debut production of new comedy troupe The House of Improv, whose show Death By Murder: An Improvised Murder Mystery is proposing a different, narrative based approach to the more traditional sketches favoured by the Oxford Imps. The idea is that an entire narrative is improvised on the spot. The audience will be asked to provide details, so this is not a production to attend if you want to sneak in a nap in the shadows of the Pilch. There may be something disconcerting in entering a production that you are being asked to craft, but the more open to participation the audience is, the better the night will be.
Week 2: The House of Bernarda Alba at the Michael Pilch Studio (performed in English)/Travesties at the Playhouse
Oxford is having a Lorca moment, with this production following Hilary’s ‘Blood Wedding’. If you have Spanish A Level, no doubt the Lorca hallmarks of sexual repression, stifling social conservatism, unashamedly obvious symbolism will be familiar to you. Hopefully, this performance of Ted Hughes’ translation will leave you feeling grateful that we live in a society capable of producing Love Island.
This week also sees Stoppard’s ‘Travesties’ at the Playhouse. The year is 1917 and James Joyce, the Dadaist poet Tristan Tzara, and Vladimir Lenin are all staying in Zürich. Stoppard envisages a meeting between the trio, with a former British diplomat recalling the events that unfold. The show does sound intellectually demanding, but, particularly if you’re an English student questioning your life choices, the satisfaction of seeing the importance of the arts in informing political movements will be enough to justify handing over £11.50 for a student ticket.
Week 3: Dogfight, The Pichette Auditorium, Pembroke College
This is a musical set in the USA in the sixties, with the main character having served in Vietnam. Beginning with a group of marines who compete to find the ugliest possible dates, the narrative rather predictably morphs into a love story. The underlying theme: a youth movement railing against poor decisions made on their behalf by an antiquated political class, which makes this production more angsty and timely than your classic Andrew Lloyd Webber. Pembroke have may be investing in wings for their auditorium for this production – a pull factor in itself?
Week 4: The White Devil, Jesus College Hall (Candlelit Show)/Company, The Nun’s Garden, Queen’s College
To experience a Revenge tragedy performed in the manner originally envisaged by Webster will bring out the full ghoulishness of The White Devil. It is also an alternative to The Duchess of Malfi and Tis Pity She’s A Whore, both Webster works that have perhaps received too much audience attention over the decades.
Queen’s College, is offering the antithesis of revenge tragedy: a musical, in a GARDEN. This Sondheim show presents the life of a thirty-something commitment-phobe. This production offers the option to lounge in the sun and have an internal boogie to Sondheim, which, in Oxford, would be an attraction for more students than you think.