In Autumn 1958, rehearsals began for an half hour production of “Dick Whittington” with a cast made up entirely of boys from the choir at St Peter's Church, Wolvercote, Oxford. The only performance of the play was given as part of the entertainment at a party for the local community in Wolvercote Village Hall on Saturday 24th January 1959. Another short play, “Lazy Ali”, was produced for the annual Church fete in the Vicarage garden on 4th July 1959, using some of the same actors who had performed in January. The enthusiasm shown in January was still there so, on 4th of July 1959, it was decided to start a youth drama group and the North Oxford Youth Theatre was born, in those days called the St Peter's Junior Dramatic Society.
Based in Wolvercote, NOYT has continued to operate throughout in the Village Hall. Members join aged 10 and leave at 17.
The programme we follow has been virtually unchanged since 1959: A musical production mid-Winter, a Festival play in Spring, a set of short plays in Summer and a drama week-end at Hill End Camp in July.
We don't audition and anyone can join. The aim is to provide an opportunity for young people from different walks of life to learn to work together with peers and adults; to learn that the entire cast/backstage depend on each other, show up on time, work hard and enjoy themselves. It doesn't matter if they don't aspire to large parts, or if they are not good actors, as long as they learn to work to these principles. However a few have gone into the professional theatre. In having members of all levels of ability our purpose is to encourage them to achieve the best they can.
The first Winter musical was “Pinocchio” in January 1960. NOYT has produced increasingly challenging pieces such as “Lord of the Flies”, “West Side Story”, “Oliver!”, “Oklahoma!” and “Bugsy Malone”.
NOYT is lucky to have a strong backstage team of volunteers, some of whom are ex-members.