Theatre News

Headlong celebrates 50th anniversary and announces relocation to Oxford

The company has also revealed new regional partnerships and five play commissions

A scene from untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play at the Young Vic
A scene from Headlong’s untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play at the Young Vic, © Richard Davenport

Headlong has announced national partnerships and a new base in Oxford as the company celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Originally founded as the Oxford Stage Company in 1974, Headlong will be returning to its roots with a residence in Oxford from late 2024, as part of the Arts Council’s National Portfolio transfer programme.

Headlong’s partnership with Oxford Playhouse describes the regional theatre as its ‘home ground’, where it will be used to stage touring productions – beginning with A Raisin in the Sun (2 to 5 October 2024) – as well as practical workshops for the Headlong Origins programme (offering early career development for theatre directors from across the UK).

In addition, Headlong will team up with Oxford University’s Stephen A Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities, a state-of-the-art academic research, exhibition and performance space, to provide artists a place to explore the intersection between drama, cutting-edge research and technological advancements, with the goal of shaping the future of touring theatre.

Lisa Maguire, executive director of Headlong said: “This is truly an exciting moment in the ever-evolving and future-facing mission of Headlong. Our new base in Oxford presents us with the opportunity to partner with our old friends at Oxford Playhouse to present work whilst also collaborating with the Cultural Programme at the new home for the humanities at Oxford University to innovate and experiment.

“We hope to develop our audiences in the city so that performances in Oxford feel like playing in front of a home crowd ahead of touring across the nation, and beyond.”

Headlong has also revealed two new associate partnerships – with Bolton’s Octagon Theatre Bolton and Leeds Playhouse – to collaborate on new productions and explore best practices for audience growth, access for disabled patrons and environmental sustainability.

The company is also set to commission five new plays, including works from Roy Williams (Death of England), Chloe Moss (Corrina, Corrina) and Aj Yi (A Playlist for the Revolution) who will develop a new piece based on The Ballad of Mulan, co-commissioned by New Earth. Artists currently under commission for Headlong include Johnny Flynn and Robert MacFarlane, James Graham, Sami Ibrahim, Charlie Josephine, Eve Leigh, Cordelia Lynn, Morgan Lloyd Malcom, Winsome Pinnock, Rhashan Stone, Joel Tan and Amanda Wilkin.

Holly Race Roughan, artistic director of Headlong concluded: “This moment sees Headlong continuing its mission to tour high-quality main stage drama nationally. I’m excited to be forging such strong national partnerships in our 50th year, which will put us in the best possible position to create and distribute innovative thrilling theatre throughout the country for the next 50. These are exactly the ambitious, imaginative and community-alert allies to step into the future with.

“For Headlong, there was no other way to mark our 50th year than by investing in new work. Five new plays will be commissioned from early-career artists and well-known names as we seek to create tomorrow’s classics.

“Championing living writers to tell the stories of our time has never been more urgent but the funding landscape has been decimated. Our 50th fundraising campaign ensures our commissions are future-proofed so we can confidently champion the best new plays without worrying about the budget”.

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