For their spring season 2017, Ovalhouse have returned to their roots of home-grown talent, staging urgent, radical theatre that continues to inspire. This will be Owen Calvert-Lyons first major season as Head of Theatre and Artist Development at Ovalhouse. We caught up with Owen to find out all about the season.
How does it feel to have announced your first major season?
It feels great. The staff here are excited by the programme and the artists can’t wait to get started. It’s really exciting to begin the New Year with a new programme and a new energy.
How did you start putting the season together? What did you have to consider?
I wanted this season to signal a return to our roots as a home for radical theatre. Much of that radicalism came from providing a platform for voices from outside the mainstream. So it was important to me that we took a risk on new artists. So this season we are supporting Bradford theatre maker Javaad Alipoor to make his first one-man show about a young man on trial in the United States on terrorism charges. We are also supporting Urban Wolf to present his first production about death in police custody and Yolanda Mercy’s Quarter Life Crisis.
It’s a packed season, were you ever worried it would be too much?
No. Theatres are designed to be full of people. I want this building to be full of artists and audiences year round. An empty theatre is a sad place.
Are any of the shows different to what we normally see at Ovalhouse?
I hope I’ve struck a balance between the type of shows that our audiences have come to know and love, alongside a series of new works and new artists.
What can audiences expect from this season?
Experimentation is a thread which runs all the way through this season. There are 8 new productions being created through our FiRST BiTE programme, giving audiences the opportunity to see them for just £5 whilst they are still in development. We want our audiences to play a crucial role in shaping the sort of productions that we are going to be staging here over the coming years; seeing unfinished work is a vital part of that process.
That experimentation continues into the mainhouse theatre. We are re-configuring the auditorium for Focus Group*, to create two large seating banks facing each other as we delve into the murky world of Mr Kipling cakes. For JOAN we are transforming the theatre in-the-round so that we can create a really intimate experience for this beautiful play about ‘history’s greatest gender-warrior’.
Audiences can expect bold and playful productions which challenge the way that you look at the world around you.
There are a couple of shows transferring from the Edinburgh Fringe, did you see them in Edinburgh? And if yes, were there any shows you saw in Edinburgh you’d like to put on at Ovalhouse?
JOAN and Eurohouse were the best productions I saw in Edinburgh last year and I am really pleased to be bringing them to Ovalhouse for London audiences to enjoy. This year will be about the wonderful shows that we will be taking to Edinburgh as much as the shows that we bring back. In July we will be staging an Edinburgh Preview Season for Ovalhouse audiences to see some great shows before they go to the festival.
Ovalhouse will be moving to a new home, what opportunities will that give you?
The new venue will allow us to continue to present radical and experimental theatre but on a bigger scale. The biggest difference will be having 7 rehearsal rooms rather than 2. That means we can support the development and creation of many more plays. The building will be filled with artists, testing and exploring new ideas. It will be like a giant theatre laboratory. The rehearsal spaces will also be double-height meaning that we can support the development of contemporary circus and aerial for the first time. The building will be fully wheelchair accessible, as well as being accessible in a variety of other ways, enabling us to increase the support that we provide for disabled artists. We will still have two studio theatres, but they will each be 50% bigger, allowing us attract larger audiences and more ambitious productions. The possibilities are endless.
Ovalhouse’s Spring Season runs until 29th April 2017 www.ovalhouse.com
Owen Calvert-Lyons is Head of Theatre and Artist Development at Ovalhouse, Photo credit Ludovic Des Cognets