Avocet Theatre Company

Location Banbury
Contact Ben Coleman - chairman@avocettheatre.co.uk
Rehearsal Venue ATC Studios
Wykham Park Academy, Ruskin Road, Banbury, OXON, OX16 9HY.

Avocet Theatre Company was formed from what was St John's Drama Group. St John's Drama Group was set up by Tom Greening, a Banbury Pantomime regular, who at the time worked as a caretaker at St John's Primary School in Banbury. Tom asked permission from the headmaster to set up a drama group which could involve not just students at the school, but also anyone who wanted to perform in a relaxed environment. The group grew from strength to strength and saw numerous members join and audiences grow. The group became very popular with productions selling out due to the fun nature of them. 

Sadly, in 2015 Tom passed away after a battle with cancer. The group mourned his loss but promised to keep Tom's legacy alive. In tribute to Tom, who had created the vibrant group, St John's Drama Group closed and all the funds were donated to Katherine House Hospice who had cared for Tom in his final days. However, with Tom's blessing, the adults of the group who had helped run St John's Drama Group agreed to continue in some form.

At St John's Drama Group's final production, One Night Only Goes Fourth, the team announced the closure of the St john's Drama Group but a formation of new one - Avocet Theatre Company. ATC would continue Tom's legacy whilst also being a new beast entirely. The group wanted the new organisation to be a dedication to Tom and therefore settled on the name 'Avocet,' the name of the road where one could find St John's Primary School. Whilst the group would no longer be rehearsing or performing at the venue, it was a reminder of the place where we all met and fell in love with performing because of Tom's passion and brilliance. 

ATC launched with a number of returning members and new ones as well. Starting with no funds, the group chose to begin with a variety performance at Harrier's Banbury Academy. Rehearsing (rather appropriately) at St John's Community Centre, ATC created an exciting evening of entertainment that showed what the new group was capable of. Following the success of this event, ATC felt it still needed time to establish itself as a theatre company. Therefore, using their experience of organising events, the company came up with the idea of a Winter Wonderland event for Christmas. This would mean an opportunity for the group to put on small performances but at the same time have a Christmas Market and other exciting opportunities. After speaking to Banbury Academy to see if they might want to join in with the fun, ATC were delighted to learn that the school were thrilled to work with us and thus an exciting partnership was formed. Together, ATC and Banbury Academy created an event that exceeded their expectations, with numerous local businesses joining in the fun. The event was a huge success and put ATC on the map. Following this, ATC found a new home at Banbury Academy who agreed to form a partnership for future events.

Next on ATC's to do list was a full scale pantomime, something St John's Drama Group had become renowned for. In true ATC style, the group have chosen to write the production themselves and devise scenes during the rehearsal process. The group, continung their partnership with Banbury Academy, staged their production at Wykham Theatre - their largest venue to date! The show was a hit with audiences and critics with the group pulling out all the stops to make the show unique and exicting for members and audiences alike. 

Following Jack & the Beanstalk, the group decided to allow their talented younger members a chance to take centre stage! After a close vote, the group decided upon Dinsey's The Little Mermaid Jr. This would be the group's first musical and welcomed experienced director, Chrissie Garrett, to to lead the show. The Little Mermaid was incredibly popular with huge audiences joining the group under the sea. 

ATC's next project was The Not-So Royal Vareity Performance which took place in June 2018. The show was a huge hit and featured a vareity of perfromances including a Lip Sync Battle where the audience voted on their winner! Alongside the Variety Performance, the group released a mini episode of Acting Out, a filmed mockumentary, similar to The Office, focussing on the running of a dysfunctional drama group. The one episode was such a hit, the group have turned it into a web-series of which they will release episodes over the coming years.

In March 2019,  Snow White: A Musical-Pantomime played to sell out audiences and recieved rave reviews.

In July 2019, Avocet Theatre Company made their 4 for 4 Announcement - 4 announcements in time for their fourth birthday. ATC were thrilled to announce the formation of ATC Studios, a dedicated space that would be ATC's new rehearsal venue and base of operations. Also announced was the creation of the ATC Bursary to encourage more people to get involed in theatre. The group also announced the creation of The Avocet Theatre Company Awards, a yearly ceremony which would celebrate members and volunteers. The final announcement made was ATC's intent to become a charity.

During the pandemic, ATC staged multiple online variety shows to raise money for the NHS and local food banks. They also launched a podcast, held read through sessions on Zoom, ran virtual workshops and much more.

In 2022, ATC returned after the COVID pandemic and staged Robin Hood & The Witches of Sherwood and Moana the Musical to sell out audiences.

The group is now working on their next project - Sleeping Beauty: A Musical-Pantomime

For more information, please visit www.AvocetTheatre.co.uk