Interview with… Owen Calvert-Lyons

Love London Love Culture’s Emma Clarendon spoke to the OvalHouse Theatre’s Owen Calvert-Lyons about the theatre’s upcoming season. 

Owen Calvert-Lyons%2c Head of Theatre and Artist Development at Ovalhouse (credit Ludovic Des Cognets) 13.jpg
(c) Ludovic Des Cognets. 

Hi Owen, thanks for talking to Love London Love Culture. What can people expect from the summer season at the Ovalhouse and how would you describe it? Our Summer season is always quite different to the way we present productions in the Autumn and Spring. Over the summer we have shorter runs of more plays, so there are lots to choose from. For Refugee Week (18-23 June) we have commissioned The Croydon Avengers, which imagines three young refugees who gain special powers and become superheroes. Like all good superhero stories, the play is inspired by comic books, so it’s got a brilliant energy – and loads of martial arts. It makes you walk out of the theatre wishing you were wearing a cape. In July, we always preview productions on their way to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This year we present Nele Needs a Holiday – a comic musical from Belgian singer-songwriter Nele Van den Broeck. Seeing the show will be like going to a gig. We’ve been listening to her albums for weeks in the theatre office, we’ve already fallen in love with lyrics like ‘Will you still love me when I look like my mom?’ and “When I drink I always think that I’m Beyonce” – I think this show could be a hit at this year’s festival and I’m really pleased that Ovalhouse audiences have the chance to see a sneak-preview.

Was there anything in particular that inspired this season’s programme of work? The thing that really sets this season apart is the number of shows in development – we have 7 new plays being tested through our FiRST BiTES programme. This is one of our most successful programmes – through which we invite audiences to see the first draft of a new play for just £5. We usually present three or four of these, but there were so many exciting ideas this season that we have doubled that number. The range is huge, from Last Night I Met You Dreaming which uses digital projection-mapping to create magical-realist landscapes to STARS with a live DJ soundtrack, to Tokyo Love Hotel an immersive experience about intimacy and technology.

Would you say that there is something for everyone to enjoy? Ovalhouse supports, develops and produces artists and performances outside of the mainstream – so we never aim to appeal to everyone, but we do offer an amazing range of productions, each with a different audience in mind. Alongside all of our professional plays, we also present home-grown productions devised and performed by young Londoners. This season we present Austerity and Me, a hard-hitting exploration of the impact of this government’s austerity policy on the lives of young people growing up in South London.

Are there any particular highlights that you are looking forward to audiences experiencing? I’m particularly excited by the prospect of Messiah. The play is still in the very early stages of development, which is always an exciting time as we all try to discover the best way to tell this story to an audience. It’s a really important story: the assassination of black Panthers Leader, Fred Hampton, by the Chicago Police Department in 1969. The play is set during the police re-enactment of the murder and takes place on a scale-model of the floorplan of Hampton’s flat. The Black Panthers held their first UK meeting in Ovalhouse, so this powerful new production has historical resonances for us as well as a really important contemporary context of the police shootings of young black men. The play is directed by our Associate Artist, Jesse Briton, so it’s great to see another exciting production come out of our Artist Development programme.

For more information about Ovalhouse’s latest season of work visit:

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