The Playhouse was originally founded as The Red Barn at 12 Woodstock Road, North Oxford, in 1923 by J. B. Fagan. The early history of the theatre is documented by the theatre director, Norman Marshall in his 1947 book, The Other Theatre. Don Chapman has also provided a comprehensive study of the theatre in his 2008 book, Oxford Playhouse: High and Low Drama in a University City.
The current theatre building on the south side of Beaumont Street was designed by Sir Edward Maufe and was completed in 1938. It is faced with stone, in keeping with other early 19th century Regency buildings in the street.
Well-known actors who have appeared on the stage at the Playhouse include Rowan Atkinson, Ronnie Barker, Dirk Bogarde, Judi Dench, John Gielgud, Ian McKellen, Dudley Moore, Bill Hicks and Maggie Smith. Susannah York gave her final performance at The Playhouse in August 2010 in Ronald Harwood’s Quartet.
The Oxford Playhouse was the crucible from which Prospect Theatre Company was created by Manager Elizabeth Sweeting and Resident Stage Manager Iain Mackintosh in 1961. Prospect Theatre Company became the third major UK theatre company after the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company, and between 1963 and 1976 Prospect toured 75 productions to 125 theatres in 21 countries.
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