From an apocalyptic future to a who-dunnit cyberpunk noir, The North Wall’s annual theatre festival aims to ensure that the north Oxford arts centre retains its role in nurturing new talent, writes Fergus Morgan.

Alchymy 2018, which runs this weekend, celebrates original work by emerging artists and boasts a promising line-up of performances, workshops and panel discussions.

Its eclectic line-up featuring world premieres of new plays on subjects as diverse as climate change, Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme expeditions, the pitfalls of family weddings and pupil referral units.

This year’s festival is bigger and better than ever, with 25 events over the weekend, including 11 plays – giving a platform to playwrights still finding their voice, directors yet to make a splash and producers looking to move up the career ladder. In short, to help these emerging artists create new work.

Perhaps the most exciting addition to the line-up, though, are new monologues from three exhilarating young writers covering such topical and thought-provoking issues as homelessness, sex work and revenge porn. They include work by Luke Barnes, Sonya Hale and acclaimed actor Ashley Zhangazha.

These monologues will run back-to-back during the festival, one each day. Alternatively, catch the ArtsLab initiative, aimed at aspiring young writers, directors, designers and performers collaborating on new work with established professionals.

The result is a showcase of extracts from six new plays which were developed over Easter.

Other highlights will include a series of the discussions, workshops and industry panels held by prestigious theatre insiders from Ellen McDougall, artistic director of London’s Gate Theatre, to former National Theatre of Scotland helmsman Laurie Sansom, and actors Imogen Stubbs, on Sunday, and Kayode Ewumi, on Saturday.

Festival producer Ellie Keel says: “We think we live in a world where there’s a lot of discussion and plenty of opportunity to air your views, but there’s no substitute for actually being in a room with other people, having face-to-face, thought-provoking, rigorous conversations about what we need to change in the industry we work in.

“There is a real need for people to do that in theatre.”

Those of you more interested in the performance side, there is a host of fantastic new work to watch before it catches on.

Take Itch, tonight, a new show from spoken word poet, playwright Marika McKennell.

It is based on stories gathered during community work in north London gathering true stories from old people’s centres during her community work in Hackney and Tottenham, producing a charged and poetic look at the ways we internalise our feelings, dexterously weaving together the narratives of three characters. Concentrating on structural oppression, sexually-transmitted diseases and ageing, she tells bold stories from shy places.

Alchymy also offers you the chance to see high-quality new plays.

Rehearsing For Planet B is a new work from collaborative company Forward Arena, set in an apocalyptic future caused by climate change.

Set in the North Watford Sleep Club, it is a place of refuge, where people fight to keep themselves awake while outside things are collapsing.

WOLF is another must-see production, the debut show from comedian Lewis Doherty, whose one-man detective story is set in an imaginary world of cyberpunk noir.

A one-man medley of action, comedy, and characters, it sees Patrick Wolf trying to discover whoever or whatever killed his ex-partner, Shadow City detective Jay Walker.

The hilarious adventure across a nightmarish urban landscape includes more than 30 characters along with car chases, and multi-man brawls, using nothing but his own body and a chair.

Ding Dong is more down to earth.

Written by Rosie Kellett, it depicts a big family wedding. With hopes of bonding, confetti and a night of dancing to wedding classics, surely nothing could go wrong, but of course it does.

We don’t choose our family, something our protagonist is only too aware of as she introduces her new boyfriend at the family celebration.

Last but not least, a slice of urban life is demonstrated in E8.

Set in an alternative school for excluded pupils in Dalston, east London, it is written by Marika McKennell and directed by Ria Parry it sees a woman called Bailey waiting for a decision that may change her life, while the headteacher prepares to leave them all behind.

High quality is assured. A premiere from last year’s festival, The B*easts by BAFTA-winning actor Monica Dolan has since been nominated for an Olivier Award.

“I’m hugely proud of the programme we’ve put together,” says Ellie. “The speakers, the artists, the young theatre-makers that are joining us are so impressive. It’s all about getting diverse, stimulating voices in the room and on the stage.”

And this, Ellie says, is just the beginning. She hopes the festival will be back again next year, nurturing relationships, provoking debate, and offering opportunities.

She says: “We aim to provide a whole weekend of memorable entertainment which will stay with you after the festival has ended.”

  • Go to The North Wall arts centre, South Parade, Oxford.
  • Tickets are available for individual shows from £5. For £25, an Alchymy Entertainment Pass guarantees entry to all performances in the venue’s main theatre. For £40, the Alchymy Pass gets you into everything.