If you’ve ever wondered why some plays in Oxford are sold out, while others have a pathetic scattering of mums, hangers-on and bewildered elderly academics in place of an audience, you’re not alone.
What makes it all the more perplexing is that the size of the audience doesn’t always reflect the quality of the show. Sometimes critical turkeys triumph at the box office while their superior competitors miss out.
The secret behind this mysterious phenomenon involves a group of people as powerful as they are recondite: Oxford’s marketing managers. Expert at selling anything from Shakespeare to Shaffer, they will flood you with Facebook messages, deluge the town with posters and do almost everything else to persuade you to buy a ticket.
We’ve picked out ten of the best:
1. Adam Hadley
A legend in the world of Oxford drama, Adam Hadley took marketing to previously unseen heights last year with Don Carlos. To quote one commentator at the time, Hadley ‘flyered the moon.’ People who hadn’t been inside a theatre for ten years found themselves asking what all the fuss was about. One of his more innovative ideas was to team up with the Big Bang restaurant to offer a £5 meal with every Carlos ticket. Although Adam graduated last year, he still found time this Michaelmas to market and co-produce Krishna Omkar’s operatic hit, The Marriage of Figaro.
2. Alessia de Quincey
The brains behind the West Side Story campaign, which saw a student show completely sell out the Oxford Playhouse for the first time in living memory. Alessia had made the transition to marketing from a fruitful stint as producer for directors Max Hoehn and Will Maynard. Her marketing gimmicks stunned Oxford, ranging from flash mobs on Cornmarket to the introduction of an alcoholic cocktail specially invented for the production.
3. Heidi Stancliffe
As marketing manager for The Odyssey, Heidi has got people talking about the play even before the actors start rehearsing. A ballerina in her spare time, she made a stratospheric rise through the marketing ranks this year after a string of successes. First she was part of an innovative marketing strategy for Decadence, then single-handedly managed a campaign that helped As You Like It to take over £4000 at the box office.
4. Rebecca Threlfall (Keble)
An experienced hand who ran the marketing campaign for The Madness of George III at the Oxford Playhouse, making a profit against the odds. Also the outgoing president of Keble’s influential Martin Esslin drama society.
5. Matthew Waksman (Somerville)
A multi-skilled individual who’s tried his hand at directing as well as marketing. At the moment he’s managing to market two huge shows simultaneously, working on The Magic Toyshop at the Playhouse and Equus at the OFS.
6. Daniel Rolle (Wadham)
Working at the moment on The Invention of Love at the Oxford Playhouse, Daniel Rolle has done more than just cover the traditional marketing areas. He’s forged links with the playwright himself, Tom Stoppard, gaining his support and an exclusive interview – coming soon to the pages of Cherwell.
7. Laura Williams (Jesus)
Laura is primarily a producer, but handles her own marketing better than many who do it exclusively. She’s run a successful tour of The Bacchae which spanned the continents, going from Oxford to California. One of her most exiting marketing techniques is the provision of free workshops for local schools.
8. Yasmin Mitha (LMH)
Yasmin, also involved in last year’s Playhouse show Don Carlos, managed the singular feat of selling out Merton’s Garden Show, Love’s Labour’s Lost. Garden shows never sell out, as a rule, but so successful was Yasmin’s campaign that extra seats had to be added as the punters kept coming.
9. Will Bland (St. Hugh’s)
Will started marketing as soon as he arrived in Oxford, working on his college’s Cuppers entry followed by a production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Confusions that sparked stars of the Oxford stage such as Martha May, Ed Baranski and Andrew Wilkinson.
10.Chris Thursten (Graduate)
A highly respected actor during his time at Oxford, Chris has diversified recently into producing and marketing. He is most remarkable for his web-based approach: his productions are immediately distinguishable by their professional-standard websites.