OSC Renamed Headlong, Revives Kushner AngelsDate: 29 August 2006
Renowned touring outfit Oxford Stage Company has rebranded itself as Headlong Theatre. Under the artistic directorship of Rupert Goold, who took over from Dominic Dromgoole (now at the Globe) last October (See News, 21 Jul 2005), it has, for the first time, announced a full programme of future work. Highlights of the year-long season, under the title “Reinventing the Epic”, include a major new revival of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, the European premiere of a new play by Jesus Hopped the A Train author Stephen Adly Guirgis and an adaptation of Rough Crossings, historian Simon Schama’s text about the slave trade.
When founded in 1974, the company worked closely with Oxford Playhouse but, since becoming independent, has moved headquarters to London and established a reputation for high-quality touring. Speaking to Whatsonstage.com, Goold explained that OSC was not alone in wanting a name change: “Oxford Playhouse were really keen to change the name because they kept getting our post and we were getting their post. There was confusion that we were still based in the Playhouse. We also overheard that some people thought we were a student company. It seemed crazy being called the Oxford Stage Company when we had no links to Oxford.”
Goold cites Brecht as his programming inspiration, in asking “what is epic theatre now and what is theatrical now”. On the company’s new website, it says that Headlong is “dedicated to new ways of making theatre. By exploring revolutionary writers and practitioners of the past and commissioning new work from artists from a wide variety of backgrounds, we aim constantly to push the imaginative boundaries of the stage. Headlong makes exhilarating, provocative and spectacular new work to take around the country and around the world.”
While Goold’s predecessor established a reputation for revivals of neglected classics, often by British dramatists such as George Bernard Shaw, Goold told Whatsonstage.com: “My aspiration for the company is that we do ideally at least 50 percent new work in the coming years. The great thing about our company is that it’s defined by scale – it’s not studio-based, it’s about playing to 500-seat theatres every night. The kind of new work we do has to a) have a physical ambition, and b) have a kind of appeal.”
Reinventing the Epic
The first season under the new Headlong Theatre title comprises the following…
Written for eight actors assuming multiple roles, Angels in America was commissioned and developed by San Francisco’s Eureka Theater. Part one, Millennium Approaches, had its UK premiere at the National Theatre in 1992, and was joined in rep by part two, Perestroika, the following year, both directed by Declan Donnellan with casts including Henry Goodman, Stephen Dillane, Daniel Craig and Joseph Mydell. The piece opened on Broadway in 1993, winning the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 2003, Mike Nichols’ made the drama into an HBO TV mini-series which starred Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Mary-Louise Parker and Patrick Wilson. Kramer’s new production open at the Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre in spring 2007 prior to a national tour, including dates at London’s Lyric Hammersmith.
Commenting on the new Headlong season, chair of the board Joanna Kennedy said: “Rupert Goold’s appointment to OSC has ushered in a period of great artistic ambition and success. Following Paradise Lost’s sell-out tour of the UK this spring, we’re thoroughly looking forward to introducing ourselves to audiences in our new guise as Headlong Theatre.”
- by Terri Paddock