ArtsLab: Meet the Bluebeard’s Castle design team

We’re into the third and final week of our second ArtsLab residency this summer, Bluebeard’s Castle, with OperaUpClose. We spoke to the design team, led by Kate Lane alongside two young designers Cecilia Trono and Ellie Jones, about how they’ve created the design concepts, built set and scenery and sourced costumes for the project.


The North Wall stage in traverse format

Who or what gave you the most inspiration for the design?

The concept for the design really evolved by examining the uncanny and in particular its use in horror films. We took inspiration from early horror films such as Nosferatu looking at the idea of things lurking in the corner of your eyes.

How do you go from taking an idea and making it a fully staged production?

This project is a research & development project without a public showing and therefore the design process is very different to if we were staging it for a performance run. Normally we would start months before the rehearsal starts with conversations with the Director and Choreographer, and with visual research and several model boxes before we decide on a final design.  Here we are really just exploring ideas and experimenting with how design can influence the direction in some way.  There is a lot more experimentation.

Did you do anything very different design wise as it is an opera?

We haven’t done anything different design wise because it’s an opera other than making sure the conductor can be seen my the instrumentalists and singers.  With the dancers it is slightly different as how they manipulate the staging is being developed alongside the design.  This involves lots of discussions with the creative team and quickly trying out ideas in the studio.  Having the theatre is a real treat and in some ways I am using it as a model box. 

Sand on the floor

Ceclia and Ellie hard at work with the tech team

Why did you decide to do it in traverse? [with the stage in the centre and audience sat on either side]

We decided to do it in traverse as we need the imagined audience to be totally involved and absorbed in the space, in order to draw them into the belly of the beast. There would be an added physicality for the audience themselves: they would have to walk across the stage to go and sit down, making them integrated into the set. They’re swamped by the design.

Can you tell us more about design ideas for costumes?

Costumes are a work in progress and at the moment we have mainly been working on the dancers’ costumes. To design these we have been keeping in line with our main idea which is the ever-evolving living beast of the castle.

Any ideas you really wanted to do but had to forget about? 

[Kate] I always design something for the space and budget that we are given but I also secretly design the show in my head with limitless budget and time… So therefore the same ideas but bigger/ more complex and more mesmerising…

OperaUpClose are working on Bluebeard’s Castle as part of a three-week ArtsLab residency with an ensemble of emerging singers, dancers & designers. To find out more about ArtsLab at The North Wall, click here.

Temporary Closure this Summer

The North Wall will be closed for refurbishment from 18th July – 1st August as we prepare for some very exciting changes.

Our current box office area is being transformed into a new bar, which means we’ll be able to serve coffee, tea and hot chocolate alongside our usual range of wines, beers and soft drinks. The new box office desk will now face the front door so it’s even easier to find us to pick up your tickets.

We’re also repainting the gallery, ready for our next exhibition, RE:collections by Sonia Boue, Claudia Figueiredo and Rose Wallace, which opens on Tuesday 2nd August.

Booking tickets:

We will be open from 5pm on 22nd July for the performance of Tom Brennan’s The Audacious Christian Militia. Tickets can be bought online here, or you can buy on the door, but please make sure to bring cash.

For tickets for upcoming shows, please note that the box office desk on South Parade will be closed until 2nd August – but you can still call the box office team on 01865 319450 to book tickets during our opening hours (Mon – Fri 10am – 4pm) or book online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We look forward to seeing you at the newly transformed North Wall Arts Centre very soon.

Bucket List: One year on…

Theatre Ad Infinitum have been in residence at The North Wall this week, working on their new show Bucket List, which premieres at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. We chatted to Nir Paldi, one of the company’s artistic directors, half-way through their 10 day residence…

Theatre Ad Infinitum: Bucket List (c) Alex Brenner

Theatre Ad Infinitum: Bucket List (c) Alex Brenner

  • It’s been a year since we saw a scratch performance of Bucket List at The North Wall. How has the show changed since then?

The show has changed and developed significantly. Theatre Ad infinitum’s work is developed over a prolonged period of research in the studio, devising with the company intermingled with dramaturgical work by the project’s leader and public sharing of work-in-progress performances. This is a long and elaborated process we have developed over the years. The most important part of the work is to find the best way to marry the subjects that the piece touches upon, with its theatrical style. Since last July, it has become clearer what the piece’s theme is and what the debate is that it trying to evoke. Using this greater understanding of what the theme is, we are now able to push the theatrical style even further. We’re very excited to share the work here at the North Wall.

  • The stories that Theatre Ad Infinitum has told over the years draw from a vast range of subjects – at The North Wall we’ve seen a dystopian futurist thriller (Light), the Israel-Palestine conflict told through cabaret (Ballad of the Burning Star) and Translunar Paradise explored universal themes of love and loss through the story of one couple’s relationship over the years . So why this story, and why now?

The idea for the Bucket List story was given to me by my close collaborator, Mexican actress Vicky Araico Casas. A story about a Mexican orphan girl from one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the world, fighting to change her life. I was immediately inspired by the potential of the story to invoke themes of social mobility and raise a debate about ways of achieving social change.

Bucket List is a story of one Mexican woman’s fight for justice. When her mother is murdered for protesting corporate and governmental corruption, Milagros finds herself with only a bloodstained list of those responsible. Determined to make them pay, Milagros embarks on a passionate quest for justice, no matter the cost.

On the backdrop of the Brexit upheaval, the themes explored in Bucket List seem more important than ever right now.

Theatre Ad Infinitum: Bucket List (c) Alex Brenner

Theatre Ad Infinitum: Bucket List (c) Alex Brenner

  • What’s the common factor that unites all of Theatre Ad Infinitum’s work? 

Each one of our productions is completely different to the others in terms of style and content. We identify a theme we feel needs to be addressed publicly and then find the theatrical style that will serve it best. So in a way, what unites our pieces is how different they are from one another. The work is narrative-driven and the performers are the main tool in creating atmospheres, characters, dynamics and spaces, with music and sound also playing a crucial supporting role.

  • Tell us more about the style of the show – have you drawn from any particular Mexican cultural traditions when creating the work? What else has inspired the company when creating the piece?

In Bucket List we use physical storytelling, live instrumental music and song. In terms of Mexican tradition – there’s quite a bit of salsa, and within the sound scape we are using an instrument called Aztec Death Whistle, that makes an absolutely terrifying sound.

Theatre Ad Infinitum: Bucket List (c) Alex Brenner

Theatre Ad Infinitum: Bucket List (c) Alex Brenner

Watch a work in progress performance of Bucket List on 14th July at 7.30pm at The North Wall.
Book tickets here:

MultiBuy Shows in Autumn 2016

bourgeoismauriceautumn Header

Our autumn 2016 season is now on sale – and multibuy discounts are back.

We’re offering 10% off when you book for 3 or more of the following selected shows during the season:

Jordan Brookes & Sam Fletcher
Simon Munnery

64 Squares
A Gambler’s Guide To Dying
And Then Come The Nightjars
Tony’s Last Tape
Lady Macbeth: unsex me here

Karen Matheson
The Furrow Collective

We look forward to seeing you at The North Wall soon!

Our most ambitious ArtsLab Residency yet…

Every summer since 2011, we’ve run summer residencies for emerging artists aged 18-25 who are committed to making a career in the arts. The work is always intensive and challenging – demanding absolute commitment.

This year, we’re launching our most ambitious residency to date: two projects running simultaneously – a piece of political theatre, led by Lucy Maycock and the North Wall’s creative team, and a new version of a classic opera, led by the Olivier award-winning OperaUpClose.

Past participants have seen it as one of the best vocational training experiences of their lives. Most have gone on to complete professional training courses, and many are now working successfully in the industry.

The residency runs from Monday 25th July – Saturday 13th August 2016. We are holding auditions for actors, singers, dancers and musicians, and interviewing aspiring designers and technicians.

If you want to find out more about how to apply, visit the ArtsLab section of our website now:

Spring 2016 tickets now on sale

Stuck for Christmas present ideas? Tickets for one of our spring shows are now on sale – the perfect gift for the culture buff in your life. We’re enormously proud of our Spring 2016 programme – we’ve hand-picked a range of though-provoking theatre, side-splitting comedy and magical family shows. Here are our top picks:

Ulla's Odyssey

Ulla’s Odyssey

North Wall favourites OperaUpClose will be staging two new works here over the next season: an evening of Arias from Shakespeare, as well as their latest venture, Ulla’s Odyssey, part of an exciting new strand to their work. Who says opera is just for grown-ups?

Theatre Fake It Till You Make It

Fake it ’till you Make it

We saw some brilliant shows in Edinburgh over the summer, and we’re delighted to bring them to an Oxford audience. Fake It ’til You Make It is a charming, funny and honest play about masculinity and depression.

Nijinsky’s Last Jump is a beautiful piece of dance-theatre that won a Fringe First. This is an unsentimental but tender tribute to the troubled ballet dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky.

Peter Rhoades Exhibition

Peter Rhoades: Gaza

There is a great line-up of exhibitions in the gallery. In April, try to catch Peter
Rhoades’ Gaza – a set of extraordinary drawings that give you an insight into the chaos and tragedy of Operation Cast Lead of 2008-9.

Bridget Christie

Bridget Christie: A Book for Her

Other highlights include: Coulrophobia – inspired clowning madness from
Pickled Image to brighten up the glooms of January. Mark Thomas proves you can be very, very funny as well as being heroically principled with Trespass. And comedian Bridget Christie comes to The North Wall with a cracking new show, A Book for Her.

Visit our website now to have a glimpse of what’s on offer over the coming months – and if you’re on our postal mailing list, a brochure will be winging its way to you shortly.

Multi-Buy Is Back

We’re offering super savings when you book two or more selected shows before Saturday 30th January 2016.

2 shows – save £1 per ticket
3 shows – save £1.50 per ticket
4 or more shows – save £2 per ticket

Tickets must be booked in a single transaction. Valid on full price & concession tickets only for up to two tickets per show.

Click here to find out which shows are available

This offer is bookable by phone only – call 01865 319450 to get your multi-buy tickets.

Writers & Directors: apply now for TheatreCraft 2016

For the second year running, we’re giving aspiring writers and directors aged 18 – 25 the chance to work for two weeks in residence with us, completely free of charge.

The artists awarded a place on the programme will work a team of professional actors and highly experienced mentors. The residency will run from Tuesday 29th March – Friday 8th April 2016.

If you’re interested in applying, click here to find out more.


Here’s some of the feedback from some of last year’s participants:

I cannot thank the North Wall enough for this creative freedom – it was amazing.Two incredibly professional writers giving feedback on my work for 2 weeks – an absolute dream come true. Having never written dialogue before, I went on to write 64 pages of it over the course of the 2 weeks. The residency has contributed hugely to my growth as an artist:… I know now what I am aiming at and am getting closer to learning how to define myself as an artist. (YOUNG WRITER)

I’ve gained confidence in my skills as a director; learning from other directors and actors that I am good at running a rehearsal room has given me the impetus to carry on and to keep pushing to reach the next stage in my career.    (YOUNG DIRECTOR)


Disco Pigs: An interview with director Cathal Cleary

Ahead of Disco Pigsrun at The North Wall next week, writer Catherine Love speaks to director Cathal Cleary about his revival of the show, which he first directed at the Young Vic four years ago.

Director Cathal Cleary describes the plays of Enda Walsh as “about people using their imagination to make better versions of reality”. In Disco Pigs, those people are Pig and Runt: two 17-year-old best friends from Cork whose shared fantasy existence is beginning to crumble. Walsh’s play follows their intense friendship as it comes under increasing pressure from the outside world.


Cathal Cleary in rehearsal

Cleary’s production, which he is now remounting for a tour of the South East, highlights the imagination and performance of Walsh’s two distinctive characters. “They are creating a fictional world for themselves,” says Cleary. “That’s what we tried to unleash within our production, making it these two teenagers stuck in recreating this play for themselves over and over again. Pig and Runt are the characters, but Darren and Sinead are their real names, so it feels as though Darren and Sinead are playing two parts and are endlessly stuck in this cycle of playing these roles and creating this fantasy world for themselves.”


Photo credit: Richard Davenport

Cleary stresses that Disco Pigs is “an exciting, brilliantly written play”, but part of the appeal for him was that it leaves room for a “director’s stamp” to be put on it. “I don’t worry about productions that have gone before,” he says, explaining that “you have to treat any play like a new play”. Unlike previous stripped back productions, Cleary worked closely with designer Chloe Lamford on his version, creating a visual world for the show that fits with his interpretation of the play as being about the vivid imaginations of its two protagonists.


Photo credit: Richard Davenport

Cleary is now looking forward to seeing how the show will go down with audiences on tour. “It will feel quite foreign, quite intrusive upon these more traditional types of venues,” he suggests, adding “I think that’s great that these two quite odd kids from Cork are landing in Didcot and Cambridge and Hertford and being quite exciting, quite threatening and in your face. I think that will take people by surprise and I think they’ll go for it.”

Disco Pigs will be performed at The North Wall on Wednesday 25 November at 8pm. Click here to book tickets.

Ariane Mnouchkine’s Ecole Nomade at The North Wall


Legendary theatre director Ariane Mnouchkine will be working in residence at The North Wall over the next two weeks. From 14th – 25th September, along with five members of her company, Théâtre du Soleil, she will be bringing her unique “travelling school” – the École Nomade – to the theatre.

“Ariane Mnouchkine is one of the giants of theatre – she is the only female director to have ever won the international Ibsen award, and has received honours from many countries for her achievements. Her creative output over the last fifty years has been extraordinary and enormously influential. The fact that she is sharing her working method with students of theatre, including some of the students studying drama at St Edwards, here in Oxford at The North Wall is a marvellous thing.” said Lucy Maycock,  artistic director of the North Wall.

The company have taken the École Nomade all over the world, from Kabul to Chile, then Sweden and now Oxford, where eighty people from across the country will be participating following national auditions. The fortnight will be based on the Théâtre du Soleil’s own working method of workshopping with hundreds of actors before they begin the creation of a new piece of work. In the company’s own words: “The sessions of the École Nomade will not simply be drama classes; they will, rather, constitute moments of practical reflection, in which we seek to set out, explain, and clarify our methods, and to share our collective way of working. And the point of all this? Because this is how we, at the Théâtre du Soleil, explore, try, fail, and begin again. In short, this is how we work.”

Based in France, Théâtre du Soleil rarely performs in the UK, which makes this visit to Oxford extremely special. The company creates popular yet radical, high-quality theatre that invents new ways to combine Asian and Western styles. One of the last great collective companies in Europe, they have for more than 50 years continued to question theatre’s capacity to represent its own times.

Lucy first saw the work of Théâtre du Soleil in 1998 at their artistic home, La Cartoucherie on the outskirts of Paris. “The humanity, vision and intelligence of the work had a huge impact on me, and the fact that Mnouchkine herself was there tearing tickets at the door taught me that great theatre has to be collaborative and democratic. Watching Ariane work over the last few days, we’ve seen that her generosity of spirit informs all her work. More importantly, she reminds us that without discipline, creative vision cannot flourish – which is perhaps one of the greatest lessons from this very special two weeks.”

Autumn 2015 now on sale – and multi-buy offers are back

Autumn 2015 Facebook Banner

We’re delighted to announce that our Autumn 2015 season is now on sale – a wide range of theatre, dance and music events that pick controversial subjects, defy genre, mix things up and keep audiences on their toes. We have dark, satirical puppetry for adults, William Blake remixed by a beat-boxing world champion, and a dance-theatre adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Comedy fans will be tempted by something a little bit different – an improvised sketch show from Kepow where the audience takes control of the story; and a panel show chock-full of bizarre, extraordinary and hilarious facts brought to you by the QI elves.

Families are invited to explore every inch of the building on our Takeover Day, as part of the nation-wide Family Arts Festival. With behind-the-scenes theatre tours, some very special shows and a huge range of wondrous workshops, we guarantee there will be something fun and fascinating for everyone.

Visit our website now to have a glimpse of what’s on offer over the coming months – and if you’re on our postal mailing list, a brochure will be winging its way to you shortly.

Multi-Buy Is Back

We’re offering super savings when you book two or more selected shows before Saturday 12th September 2015.

2 shows – save £1 per ticket
3 shows – save £1.50 per ticket
4 or more shows – save £2 per ticket

Tickets must be booked in a single transaction. Valid on full price & concession tickets only for up to two tickets per show.

Shows available in this offer include: We Want You To Watch, The Bogus Woman, Blake Remixed, Fire In The North Sky, Outpost, Martyr, Donald Robertson…, Jackie Oates & Ben Murray, Eventide, QI: No Such Thing as a Fish, Don Quixote, Paradise Lost, and Disco Pigs.

This offer is bookable by phone only – call 01865 319450 to get your multi-buy tickets.