This year The Theatre Chipping Norton is celebrating 50 years as a stalwart of arts and entertainment in Oxfordshire.

Probably most famous for the national institution which is their long-running, original pantomime, the last five decades have seen performances from household names like Harry Potter star David Bradley, as well as a huge social impact in their local community (The Theatre helps to provide over 5,000 free meals a year to children entitled to free school meals).

But The Theatre isn’t the kind of place that sits back and looks at everything they’ve done – so this year is all about looking to the future.


Central to The Theatre’s 50th year is its three pledges: to be a hub for the creative arts, to support their flourishing community and to provide a place to belong.

These are the values that founded The Theatre, and they’re the ones that will carry them into the next five decades.

Of course, there’s lots of celebrations planned! This anniversary year they’re hosting bigger names (Rory Bremner, Clive Anderson and Prue Leith among them), transforming the auditorium for an entertaining Theatre Feast, and staging more original productions than before.

Two epic community shows celebrate The Theatre’s 50th birthday, including a new play by multiple Olivier Award-winning writer Mike Bartlett.

As the centrepiece of its 50th anniversary celebrations, The Theatre Chipping Norton present an ambitious double-header that celebrates the history of rural Oxfordshire and its modern day community.

Their biggest-ever company, involving almost 100 actors, singers and morris dancers – both amateur and professional – bring two unique theatrical experiences to the stage.

Experience the world of rural Oxfordshire unfolding around you as you step into a transformed theatre, moving from field to tavern to barn, guided by the performers through the space and story.

Offering both places to perch, and places to stand, this is The Theatre as you’ve never seen it before.

Great British Life: Chipping Norton Theatre frontageChipping Norton Theatre frontage (Image: Chipping Norton Theatre)

LARK RISE BY KEITH DEWHURST, from the book by Flora Thompson, June 6-9.

A summer’s morning at the close of the 19th century. Fourteen-year-old Laura journeys through the first day of harvest to meet an extraordinary and loveable cast of characters. From field-workers’ chants in golden cornfields to performances of long-lost songs set in smoky taverns, the laughter and everyday tragedies of the villagers of Lark Rise will immerse you in a forgotten, rural England.


This sparkling new play from the multi-Olivier Award-winning writer of TV’s Doctor Foster, King Charles III and Press and Life, echoes the themes of Lark Rise.

Barn Dance traces the imagined history of an Oxfordshire barn from World War IIto the installation of a kitchen with underfloor heating, Barn Dance is a celebration of Oxfordshire – all that it is, and all that has changed along the way.

Mike says: ‘I’m so happy that Chipping Norton Theatre is producing Barn Dance, in this amazing promenade production, with a company comprising both professional actors and cast members from the local community.

‘The play is set in Little Compton and is about how a rural community changes over time. As I grew up in Oxfordshire myself, the play is personal, but I hope it resonates with audiences more widely – speaking about what we hold onto from the past, but also what we have to let go of, in order to have a successful future.’


It is not just in their subject matter that these productions celebrate The Theatre’s community and surroundings.

While the core of the cast will be professional performers, the large ensemble of actors, musicians and dancers will be cast from the community in and around Chipping Norton. Members of The Theatre’s successful Youth Theatre will be taking part, as well as members of Great Company, The Theatre’s drama group for adults with additional needs.

The shows will also feature performances from Adderbury’s all-female Morris troop, Sharp and Blunt.

Artistic director of The Theatre John Terry says: ‘After five decades of ambitious creative projects and deep connections with our local community, this extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime project brings together incredible professional actors, writers and designers with some of the best local acting, singing and dancing talent, young and old.

‘The plays are about this place we live – North Oxfordshire – how it has changed over time, and where it goes next. And, alongside that, thinking about what The Theatre might do with the next five decades of its life.’

The Theatre is pleased to be working with a number of local companies in bringing this project to fruition.

Matthews Cotswold Flour is the headline sponsor for the Lark Rise and Barn Dance double-header. Lark Rise is sponsored by Cotswold Grass Seeds, and Barn Dance is sponsored by Bruern Farms.

Both productions are also supported by The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust.

The fun continues all year long, with brand new musical comedy play Murder For Two debuting in the autumn, the return of the pantomime sponsored by Kingham Hill School (this year it’s Jack and the Beanstalk – with the obligatory Chippy Theatre twist of course!) – and more headlining comedians and performers still to be announced!.

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