Offbeat Festival 2019

Twelve days of dance, comedy and theatre.
From Rhiannon Unbridled. Credit: Jackie Singer
Various venues in the centre of Oxford, Mon 17 June - Sat 29 June 2019
See the full programme on the Offbeat Website

Over the past four years, Offbeat Festival has built a reputation for bringing fabulous, award-winning theatre, music, comedy and dance to Oxford. With over forty (!) events across the twelve days, there is something for everyone.

For the theatre enthusiast, there are homegrown one-person shows including Give Me One Moment in Time, Run Stanley Run and British Vogue, innovative theatre such as Raw Transport (which uses the platform of VR to tell its story) and Rotterdam (a powerful, Oliver-winning LGBTQ+ exploration of gender and sexuality), and everything in between.

Comedic highlights include sets from the likes of Juliette Burton, Richard Soames, Sajeela Kershi and Aaron Simmonds, with Sophie Duker closing out the comedy portion of the festival, as well as kicking off July's Oxford Comedy Festival. Meanwhile, the offering for dance fans includes works from Sonia Lisa Dance Company, Moxie Brawl and Plaster Cast.

Then there are the events that are unlike anything you will have experienced before. We're Gonne Need a Bigger Boat is a free recreation of Jaws taking place in Gloucester Green Square, performed in twenty minute slots. PhoDGraphy Workshop, accompanying the Old Fire Station's latest exhibition, is a portrait photography session with you and your dog. And Mythmaking is a tour of the Ashmolean Museum with new yarns spun about some very old objects.

There's really too much to list in one preview of this festival and with must-attend events daily this is a festival you can take a quick dip in or plunge into. This is the Oxford arts scene at its best.

Events

Give Me One Moment In Time

Songs, comedy, and the heartache of trying to understand a friend’s suicide.
Burton Taylor Studio
Gloucester Street (between Beaumont Street and Gloucester Green) Oxford

Alexander Cofield: Supernova

Hot Fuzz meets Hamilton in this acclaimed, funk-fuelled hip-hopera rap musical.
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford

Skip Skip Skip

Performance poet Leanne Moden explores isolation, transformation and how we identify.
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford

Runway

Muslim Nyla moves to a rural village. Can she manage to find her place?
Burton Taylor Studio
Gloucester Street (between Beaumont Street and Gloucester Green) Oxford

Theatre Pub Quiz

Oxfordshire Theatre Makers text your knowledge of page and stage.
St Aldate's Tavern
108 St Aldate's Oxford
Thu 20th June, 7pm
£3 per person

Run Stanley Run

A new poetic play about bereavement, loss and loneliness.
Burton Taylor Studio
Gloucester Street (between Beaumont Street and Gloucester Green) Oxford
Next: Thu 20th June

Offbeat Festival 2019

Offbeat Festival 2019: 17th to 29th June
Twelve days of dance, comedy and theatre.
Various venues in the centre of Oxford
Next: Thu 20th June

Rotterdam

Award-winning play exploring gender, sexuality and being a long way from home.
Oxford Playhouse
11-12 Beaumont Street Oxford
Next: Thu 20th June

Surge

A theatre/spoken word show about stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination from Channie B.
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Next: Thu 20th June

RawTransport™

A multi-sensory VR experience - plug in to the latest technology and escape...
Oxford Playhouse W Lucy Member's Room
11-12 Beaumont Street Oxford
Next: Thu 20th June

Watson & Malone: On Ice!

Sketch duo Watson & Malone tell a story of friendship, betrayal and amateur ice skating.
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Thu 20th June, 7pm
£5

Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen

Unique collaborations between UK’s finest young British Asian artists across dance, music & poetry
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Fri 21st June, 6pm
£10

Her Ps & Qs

Penelope and Queenie are an out-of-sync, over-sharing double-act. Rude, funny, revealing.
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Fri 21st June, 7pm
£5

Landscape (1989)

Climate change and nuclear anxiety in a close-up on Oregon National Park.
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Fri 21st June, 8.30pm
£10

Blue

An abstract fairy tale for adults underlining why it's important to reach out when you're "not OK".
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Sat 22nd June, 4.30pm
£8

Playmaker Showcase

A showcase of new writing from the Oxford Playhouse's Playmaker course.
Burton Taylor Studio
Gloucester Street (between Beaumont Street and Gloucester Green) Oxford
Sat 22nd June, 4pm
£5

PhoDOGraphy Workshop

Book a 15-minute slot for your canine companion to have their portrait taken in our Gallery. One dog per slot, no size or weight restrictions.
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Sat 22nd June, 11am-1pm
£15

Juliette Burton: Defined

Award-winning comedian Juliette is full of contradictions. How do we choose to define ourselves?
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Sat 22nd June, 7pm
£5

We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat

Venture into the tent and enter the movie world of Jaws! All ages.
Gloucester Green
Between Beaumont St, George St and Walton St Oxford
Sat 22nd June, 11am, 11.45am, 12.45pm, 2.30pm, 3.15pm & 4pm
Free - booking essential

Jane

An outdoor dance/theatre/puppetry show about Pre-Raphaelite muse Jane Morris. All ages.
Gloucester Green
Between Beaumont St, George St and Walton St Oxford
Sat 22nd June, 12pm, 1.30pm & 3.30pm
Free - just come along

Composed

A solo show about what it's really like to work in the arts.
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Sat 22nd June, 1.30pm
£8

What Does Stuff Do?

Juggler, water-bender, and part time deep thinker Robin Boon Dale presents a circus TED Talk. 8+
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Sat 22nd June, 4pm
£10

Tropez!

Comedy duo Nathan & Ida present the biggest jewel heist in history.
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Sat 22nd June, 2pm
£10

Rhiannon Unbridled

Storyteller and musician Jackie Singer explores the myth of Celtic Horse Goddess Rhiannon.
Burton Taylor Studio
Gloucester Street (between Beaumont Street and Gloucester Green) Oxford
Tue 25th June, 7pm
£10

A Moment

A duet exploring what it was to be gay in the 80s when the UK was full of fear and ignorance.
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Next: Tue 25th June

Sound Cistem

Two transgender performers say f**k you to the binary, and invite you to their queer dance party!
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Next: Wed 26th June

British Vogue

A one-woman show by Ashanti Wheeler-Artwell about subverting the quarter-life-crisis.
Burton Taylor Studio
Gloucester Street (between Beaumont Street and Gloucester Green) Oxford
Next: Thu 27th June

Richard Soames: Let's Make A Movie

Join "charming storyteller" (Chortle.co.uk) Richard Soames to make an actual movie. In one hour.
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Fri 28th June, 8.30pm
£10

Mythmaking: A Night of New Stories for Old Objects

A tour of museum objects - with a twist. Hear brand new stories for objects we've forgotten.
Ashmolean Museum
Beaumont Street Oxford
Fri 28th June, 5.30pm & 6.45pm
Free - just come along

Witch Hunt

A surreal, feminist and darkly hilarious brouhaha. The witches are hunting...
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Fri 28th June, 6pm
£10

Life And Death

Join Oxford University academics for a night of extracurricular entertainment.
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Sat 29th June, 6pm
£10

Aaron Simmonds: Disabled Coconut

The 2017 BBC New Comedy Award finalist and wheelchair enthusiast presents his new show.
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Sat 29th June, 7pm
£8

Abstract Landscapes in Ink and Wash

A watercolour class with artist Rachel Cronin.
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Sat 29th June, 2 - 4pm
£10

Mantra

Poetry, storytelling and music from beatbox champion Marv Radio.
Burton Taylor Studio
Gloucester Street (between Beaumont Street and Gloucester Green) Oxford
Sat 29th June, 5.30pm
£10

Phoenix

A new musical about stardom and fatherhood. Reach for the stars. Stand on Lego.
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Sat 29th June, 12pm
£10

My Heart, My Heart: Live Poetry Jukebox

An intimate and magical experience of poetry, visual art and performance!
Oxford Playhouse W Lucy Member's Room
11-12 Beaumont Street Oxford
Sat 29th June, 11am - 5pm
Free - just come along

Nat and Vic's Guide to Being Independent Women

Gender pay gap comedy gameshow. Who run the world? People with money.
Burton Taylor Studio
Gloucester Street (between Beaumont Street and Gloucester Green) Oxford
Sat 29th June, 1pm
£5

Sajeela Kershi: Fights Like A Girl!

Multi-cultural comedy from this multi-award winning comedian/writer/activist.
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Sat 29th June, 4.30pm
£8

Boy With The Golden Hair

A young man’s journey through the darkly absurd world of “Imprisonment for Public Protection.”
The Old Fire Station
40 George Street Oxford
Sat 29th June, 1.30pm
£8

June 20, 2019
Explore the digital abyss in this VR/RL performance where the virtual reality smells like tangerines

RawTransport, Oxford Playhouse W Lucy Room, Wed 19th June

Oxford’s Offbeat festival explores the unexpected, and this new show from Electrick Village, fresh from the Wandsworth Fringe, squirreled away in a seldom-seen private room in the Oxford Playhouse, throws curveballs right from the start.

Attendees are divided by smiling copy-and-paste stewardesses into first class and economy class seats. As the first class passengers sign their waivers and don various protective layers, my initial disappointment at my economy class ticket start to crumple; could mine be the better seat? The RawTransport™ first-class passengers, swaddled and sealed in their Oculus Rift headsets and closed-back headphones, sway and twitch through an experience that is less dream holiday and more the holiday snaps you’d discard, because they weren’t really showing anything of interest.

But inside the headsets, the bewitching 360° glamour of surround image takes hold, and has the first class passengers’ heads twisting and turning like owls, hands twitching at the sweetly orchestrated and pixel-perfect virtual and actual stimuli. As the plot begins to suck at the edges of the happy holiday, and the fixed smiles on the stewardesses start to crack and run, I wonder; is this weirder for us, or them? It’s strongly implied that the economy class seats are safer; but when all the passengers talked it through after the experience, the VR travellers said they’d felt safe and intrigued, even on the strangest shores of their discombobulating VR holiday.

At twenty minutes running time the show is brief, but intense – I left wishing I had been able to try the show in both roles, spectator and traveller, to get the full experience of RawTransport™, a highly experimental, distinctly novel, top-of-the-line virtual travel company that’s definitely still in beta, may contain some glitches, and should be approached with caution – especially by those inclined to get lost in the experience.


June 20, 2019
Propulsive rhyming rollercoaster

Alexander Cofield: Supernova, Wednesday 19th June 2019, Old Fire Station studio

Like a runaway, rap-infused train, Alexander Cofield's Supernova hit hard, threatening to tear off the roof of the Old Fire Station's studio. Over the course of a propulsive hour Cofield paused only for the briefest of breaths and the necessary gulps of water, as he took on a Herculean task of a one-person, Hamilton-esque rap poem epic. Supernova tells the tale of young Alex, trapped in North Piddle and yearning for escape. If there is a theme developing at this year's Offbeat Festival it is one of escape, of finding yourself. Cofield takes on various characters of the village as his narrative shapes up to a confrontation with the local bully at a most English of settings, the village fete.

Cofield is a dexterous performer, which is nowhere more apparent when he leaps from character-to-character. A particular stand-out moment is when he simulates downing a pint of beer, whilst keeping to the beat of the backing track. If none of the characters are quite as endearing or standout as the lead character, they do add depth and colour to the show, with a distinctively grotesque quality to many of them. Props are used sparingly but effectively, particularly a pair of reading glasses which help create an unnerving moment as Supernova slips towards folk horror.

At times the piece's narrative lets its performer down, with the show moving towards its climax at a speed that is often jarring. This fact is shielded by the frantic nature of the rap poetry, but alluded to by Cofield, who often feels like he is going to burst out of the format he is performing in. He has a wealth of charisma and bravado, with an ability to interact and feed off of the energy of an appreciative audience. Cofield is great and I'd gladly see him perform again. Supernova is also admirably complicated on a technical front, with its near constant soundtrack and effective use of lighting. You just wish there was something more to the plot to match the skill displayed in its telling. Still, this is another exciting addition to the programme for Offbeat, showing how terrific this festival is.


June 19, 2019
Knee-deep in teenage memories

Skip Skip Skip: Tuesday 18th June 2019, Old Fire Station studio

One of the strengths of Offbeat Festival is the platform it gives for smaller stories, more intimate pieces that might otherwise not receive hearing. Fitting nicely into this niche is Leanne Moden's Skip Skip Skip, staging as a work-in-progress in the Old Fire Station's studio space, which tells a powerful, personal story through a mix of poetry, storytelling and humour.

Leanne takes us back to rural Norfolk in 2002, where Norwich is seen as the beacon of escape and a job at HMV is seen as the dream. We are reminded that Britney Spears was the most influential person in the world. That Glastonbury that year had been headlined by Coldplay, Stereophonics and Rod Stewart. And for Leanne, it is the year she became a teenage goth.

Hanging over Skip Skip Skip is the pursuit all teenagers go through: the search for a tribe. Identity comes for Leanne from the clothes she wears, the music she listens to, the friends she meets. But in its own way this is what we all experienced. I may not have been a teen goth but I certainly identified with our protagonist's journey. The piece is charged with emotion, and I found myself with a lump in my throat for much of it. It reminds the viewer of their own growing pains and as I left I found myself seeking out the bands I had been into as a teen.

The staging of Skip Skip Skip was simple and restrained, absent of many of the technical add-ons that theatre tends to offer. The set-up was merely a chair with a black leather jacket. Maybe this is a product of the show's work-in-progress status, but it allowed the potency of Leanne's writing to come through even more. And the moments when props were used become all the more powerful. When Leanne pulls out a tube of lipstick (Midnight Black) and proceeds to apply it to herself, it becomes a transformative moment with far greater impact than it otherwise might have. I am unsure where Skip Skip Skip goes from here, but keeping things simple on the staging front works greatly in the piece's favour.

It is Leanne's words that matter and I wish I had a copy of them to quote throughout this review. With humour and dexterity, as well as a poetic flair that brings out the humanity in her story, Leanne weaves her tale, bringing impact in her carefully crafted text. Skip Skip Skip at times hits the viewer in the gut, but it is judged well enough to know when to lift our spirits. It really pitches Leanne Moden as a talent to keep an eye on, and once again highlights the strengths of a festival like Offbeat.

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