The festival offers the chance for audiences to catch a huge range of exciting new work in the lead up to the Edinburgh Fringe. The evening kicks off with Ghost Night, a free, one-hour showcase of plays – short tasters of new work by four young companies from around Oxford and beyond. The companies performing, Gruffdog Theatre, Clara Potter-Sweet (founding member of hit company Emergency Chorus), Tightrope Productions, and the Oxford Revue, represent a wide variety of the future of theatre. The shows on offer vary from a folk tale with puppets, a one-woman retelling of Joan of Arc, devised work addressing eating disorders, and good old-fashioned stand up.
The day will end with a double-bill of Poltergeist Theatre’s award-winning show, Lights Over Tesco Car Park, and acclaimed comedian Ahir Shah’s new show. Shah, described by The Telegraph as ‘one of his generation’s most eloquent comic voices’, will preview new work in preparation for the Edinburgh Fringe, after his 2017 show was nominated for Best Show at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards.
Poltergeist Theatre director, Jack Bradfield, is excited to flip the idea of a theatre festival on its head: “It’s young, it’s different, it’s even a little dangerous: we’re selling popcorn, we’ll have live jamming in the foyer between shows, and we’re even setting up Mario Kart in a corner! For emerging artists, it’s a chance to learn from the best, and for the best to learn from you. For anyone stuck at home this Saturday, it’s an electric day out, a festival that aims to undo the conventions of theatre-going.”
HAUNT will be a chance to try something new: whether that’s new work by established artists, new artists introducing themselves to the world, or new audience members discovering the North Wall. “It’s important to us that everyone feels welcome and has fun!” says producer, Charles Pidgeon, “Part of this means making the day affordable and accessible to as many people as possible. Thanks to great sponsors, we’ve been able to program free events and subsidise others.” Another free event will be a workshop by Iron Shoes, the Fringe first awarded company run by The North Wall’s artistic directors Ria Parry and John Hoggarth. Their workshop, titled ‘How Can We Help Each Other Better?’, will help young artists build support structures and create good working environments.
Parry and Hoggarth’s investment in the next-generation of theatre-makers helped Poltergeist find their feet. Lights Over Tesco Car Park was developed at The North Wall in October 2017, and since then has gone on to win the Samuel French New Play award, and play to sell-out crowds in Oxford, London, and Manchester. The comedy about alien abductions centres on the story of Robert, an Oxford resident who reported extraterrestrial lights appearing over the Tesco on Magdalen Road. The show is not only a lot of fun, but lands on ideas of loneliness and connection to pack an emotional punch. “It’s wonderful to be returning to The North Wall: it’s a very important space to us as a company, and the team there have given us so much guidance and support”, says Pidgeon. “It’s nice to be able to give something back, and encourage others to explore a space which we love so much!”