Offbeat Festival 2017

Offbeat is a hive of new performance in Oxford, 23 June – 2 July 2017. Programme announced in April.
The Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford OX1 2AQ, Fri 23 June - Sun 2 July 2017

Oxford's own Fringe Festival is back for 10 days of performances. A huge variety of performers and characters, local and international, showcase a really diverse range and prove that theatre isn't only Shakespeare & Ayckbourn.

These shows aren't afraid to tackle big topics, with wit and irreverence. Sometimes I Smile Politely takes on sexism and female harassment and Fourth Dog educates about breast cancer. There's good old-fashioned storytelling, while some classics are reinvented, in Medea Electronica, and The Marriage of Figaro Kim K. You might recognise a pair of The Dead Secrets, popping up in Brooklyn with Nathan and Ida's Hotdog Stand, and in the opening weekend there's contemporary dance and sassy tap with Organic Entity and Fall Out.

At the preview the sheer passion, dedication and care that went into each was obvious. The shows may be short but they're all carefully crafted. It's a great festival for diversity - women of all ages act and direct, and many minority communities are given voices. There's also a lot of autobiography in there: these performers offer themselves up for their art.

All events are at the Old Fire Station and the Burton Taylor Studio, and tickets are £5-£10.

July 20, 2017
The dust has settled, but the memories live on

OffBeat Festival 2017 was a triumph. One week, two venues, over 70 performances and extra live music events, it was a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts, and everything that Daily Info has seen has been well worth watching.

The performances were short, all under 90 minutes, and the tickets cheap. But there was nothing cheap about the quality of the acting, scriptwriting, dancing, singing, storytelling and all the other activities. Most kept to a single idea, but pursued it wholeheartedly. So we had one woman's experiences of sexual harassment, a show about how young people are deserting the countryside, Medea - the Electronica musical version. It's a premise that can be described quickly, but it's a whole world to enter. The ideas live long in the mind after applause.

The BT and OFS hosted the festival. I don't know how it worked at the BT where there was just one performance space, but the OFS felt like a real festival hub, with performers coming into each other's shows, and plenty of people to bump into in the cafe/bar between shows. It felt like an event.

It also felt like the work was fresh and new. There were Q&As, feedback forms, and premieres, and there is nothing more flattering to an audience-member to feel their views and feedback is important in shaping the show! Some of these performances will pop up again at Edinburgh, and perhaps be a little different in places.

I would recommend OffBeat for all fans of new, experimental, thoughtful theatre, exploring big themes but with a lightness of touch, or fans of performances hell bent on making people laugh, or wowing them with dazzling footwork. Or fans of diversity, equality, feminism, or acceptance. In fact, I'd be surprised if there isn't something there to delight and impress anyone. Bring on 2018!

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