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Headlong at 50: Pioneering theatre company announces new national partnerships

12 Jun 24 | The Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre

Over the past five decades Headlong has been instrumental in shaping the UK’s theatrical landscape, with productions such as Enron, Best of Enemies, People Places and Things, untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play, 1984 and Jitney. Today the company has announced a new national model that will see them deepen their relationships with partners, artists and audiences throughout England as they continue to create the highest quality mainstage drama for the nation in their 50th year.

Connecting to their roots in Oxford where the company first began as the Oxford Stage Company in 1974, Headlong will create a new base in the city in late 2024, as part of the Arts Council’s National Portfolio transfer programme. Continuing their mission to create exhilarating theatre firmly rooted in the immediate questions of our time, the company will evolve and shape a new future in the city with two three-year strategic partnerships. 

Headlong’s new partnership with Oxford Playhouse – one of the country’s leading regional theatres – will provide the company  with a ‘home ground’. A space to test new audience development practices, annually present main stage touring work and deliver, for the first time, practical on-stage workshops for Headlong Origins programme which looks to develop early career theatre directors from across the UK. This closer working relationship with the Playhouse will begin with A Raisin in the Sun this autumn, which will visit Oxford (2-5 October) and builds on the legacy of presenting critically acclaimed work  such as People, Places and Things and 1984 at the venue.

Headlong will continue to develop their Future Making strand of work, with Oxford University’s Stephen A.Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities, a state-of-the-art academic research, exhibition and performance space which looks to demonstrate the essential role of the humanities in helping confront and answer fundamental questions of the 21st century. Through this new partnership, Headlong will provide a space for artists and collaborators to think and innovate as they continue to explore the intersection between drama, cutting edge research and technological advancements, and reimagine what the future of touring theatre might look like.

Professor Sos Eltis, Fellow and Tutor in English at Brasenose College, Oxford comments:

This is wonderful news. Headlong has produced some of the most exciting new theatre in recent years, and to have them resident in Oxford and collaborating with the University and Oxford Playhouse opens up new possibilities for exchanging expertise, enriching our scholarship and understanding of theatre practice, and working together to produce innovative new performances. Here’s to shared learning, exploration and great conversations! ‘

Lisa Maguire, Executive Director of Headlong says: “This is truly an exciting moment in the ever evolving and future facing mission of Headlong. Our new base in Oxford presents us with the opportunity to partner with our old friends at the Oxford Playhouse to present work whilst also collaborating with the Cultural Programme at the new home for the humanities at Oxford University to innovate and experiment ”

“We hope to develop our audiences in the city so that performances in Oxford feel like playing in front of a home crowd ahead of touring across the nation, and beyond.”

As a national touring company, Headlong distributes powerful, world-class drama across the UK; from Plymouth to Nottingham and London to Liverpool. The company will continue to deepen its relationships with venues, artists and audiences throughout the country with two new Associate Partnerships with Octagon Theatre Bolton in the Northwest and Leeds Playhouse in Yorkshire. Building on existing creative relationships with both organisations (most recently on A View from the Bridge and Henry V) the new Associate Partnerships will provide a solid, collaborative foundation from which to create new productions, grow audiences  and progress best practice around disabled audience access and environmental sustainability.

In its anniversary year, Headlong will commission five new plays. Writers will range from well known names to early career artists all with something to ask thrillingly of the world today. They will include new works from multi-award winner Roy Williams (Death of England), Liverpool based Playwright Chloe Moss (Corrina, Corrina) and Aj Yi (A Playlist for the Revolution) who will develop a new piece based on The Ballad of Mulan, co-commissioned by New Earth. They join artists Johnny Flynn & Robert MacFarlane, James Graham, Sami Ibrahim, Charlie Josephine, Eve Leigh, Cordelia Lynn, Morgan Lloyd Malcom, Winsome Pinnock, Rhashan Stone, Joel Tan and Amanda Wilkin who are currently under commission with the company. To support these new anniversary commissions Headlong has today launched their 50th anniversary fundraising campaign, which will aim to raise £50,000 as the organisation continues to search for the new, thrilling, relevant stories that will become the classics of tomorrow. More information on the campaign can be found at

Holly Race Roughan, Artistic Director of Headlong added:

“This moment sees Headlong continuing its mission to tour high quality main stage drama nationally. I’m excited to be forging such strong national partnerships in our 50th year, which will put us in the best possible position to create and distribute innovative thrilling theatre throughout the country for the next fifty. These are exactly the ambitious, imaginative and community alert allies to step into the future with.

“For Headlong, there was no other way to mark our 50th year than by investing in new work. Five new plays will be commissioned from early-career artists and well-known names as we seek to create tomorrow’s classics.”

“Championing living writers to tell the stories of our time has never been more urgent but the funding landscape has been decimated. Our 50th fundraising campaign ensures our commissions are future-proofed so we can confidently champion the best new plays without worrying about the budget”

Headlong creates and distributes bold, world-class drama firmly rooted in the immediate questions of our time to audiences throughout the UK. To begin the 2024 season, Headlong in a co-production with Chichester Festival Theatre presented The House Party by writer Laura Lomas produced in association with Frantic Assembly and directed by Holly Race Roughan. Their production of People, Places and Things in collaboration with the National Theatre is currently playing a smash-hit season in London’s West End. A fresh new staging of A Raisin in the Sun by director Tinuke Craig will play in nationwide venues  from 13 September 2024 in a Headlong, Leeds Playhouse, Lyric Hammersmith Theatre and Nottingham Playhouse production, also visiting Oxford Playhouse. Artistic Director Holly Race Roughan will direct the Royal Shakespeare Company’s world premiere of acclaimed playwright David Edgar’s major new political play The New Real produced in association with Headlong at the RSC’s The Other Place playing in October and November 2024.  Next year Headlong will reunite with Shakespeare’s Globe following their critically acclaimed touring production of Henry V, directed by Holly Race Roughan.

12 Jun 24

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