Oval House Theatre
|Capacity||Theatre Downstairs: 200 seats|
Theatre Upstairs: 70 seats
The roots of Ovalhouse can be traced back to the 1930s and its foundations, as Christ Church (Oxford) Clubs, by the graduates of Christ Church, Oxford. Young people from disadvantaged areas in South London were able to access sports activities, skills training and supervised leisure activities through membership of the club.
Ovalhouse's reputation as one of the most important centres for pioneer fringe theatre groups dates from the 1960s, when the club underwent a radical change in the policy of the club with the arrival of newly appointed warden, Peter Oliver. Oliver refocused the club's activities from sport to drama and became the artistic founder of Oval House Theatre. Oliver staged the first theatrical production at the site; A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney.
Oval House Theatre played a key part in supporting the experimental theatre companies of the '60s and '70s, the emergence of gay, lesbian and women's theatre in the 1970s and 80's and the development of new Black and Asian writing in the '90s and into the next millennium. Following a rebrand in 2011, the theatre relaunched itself as Ovalhouse, and continues to programme innovative, cutting edge theatre.
Notable artists who began their careers at Ovalhouse include Steven Berkoff, Howard Brenton, Pierce Brosnan, Stella Duffy, Tamsin Greig, Jim Sweeney, David Hare (who worked at the theatre as a stage manager), Tim Roth and Salman Rushdie.
Ovalhouse has two theatre spaces, the Theatre Downstairs (up to 200 seats) and the Theatre Upstairs (70 seats); there is also a cafe-bar, gallery space and rehearsal rooms available for public hire. Since 2011, the cafe-bar has also been used as a venue for live-music and spoken word events .
In addition to the professional theatre programme, Ovalhouse has a Participation and Youth Arts department working with young people and vulnerable adults. Its 33% London programme offers an alternative route into professional theatre for aspiring artists aged 18–25.
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