Louise Chantal, chief executive of the Oxford Playhouse, talks about the refurbishment being done at the theatre

Twenty-nine years ago, two things happened: the Oxford Playhouse had to close its doors when the cost of renovating the interior to modern-day standards of safety made it impossible for the then owners, the University of Oxford, to foot the bill, and I arrived in town to start an English degree, falling in love with the city, theatre in general and the then abandoned Oxford Playhouse in particular.

I spent my undergraduate years putting on plays in basement rooms, running the stage lights from two 13A plugs (dodgy… you couldn’t do it now!). My generation of students had to go to London to see good theatre, adding the cost of the bus or the train to an over-priced theatre ticket. We envied the older students who had been able to both work on, and see great shows at, the Playhouse. We wanted our theatre back.

Five years later, the Playhouse reopened under the auspices of an independent charity, The Oxford Playhouse Trust, and the leadership of two remarkable young directors, Tish Francis and Hedda Beeby, who spearheaded a fundraising campaign which won support from across the city and the country, public and private sectors, big companies and private donors.

The Playhouse was revived by people who recognised how much a world-class theatre contributes towards making a city a really great place to live.

Now the Oxford Playhouse needs help again. As any one of our 175,000 visitors this year could attest, the auditorium was looking its age. The extensive 1995 refurbishment lasted well, but a lot of bottoms have sat in the stalls over the past 20 years. Seats, carpets, lighting, sound, air-conditioning and many other key features had reached the end of their useful lives.

Rather than close for a significant time again, we decided to stagger the programme of work over three consecutive summers. We timed the closures to coincide with the Playhouse’s annual presentation of the Globe Theatre in the Bodleian Quad, so there was still great theatre to see in the city (The Two Gentlemen of Verona opens on July 19).

We have achieved a good deal in the last two years – breathing new life into the foyer, bars, loos, and reception rooms, LED lights have reduced our electricity bills by 40 per cent, we’ve increased our access facilities including a wheelchair-friendly office (impossible before) – and all the while adhering to the requirements of a Grade II* listed building (the Playhouse was the last theatre to be built in England before the Second World War).

The start of July saw the start of the final and perhaps most important phase – refurbishing the auditorium, renewing our seats and installing state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems.

A wonderful design team from architects Allies and Morrison – which built the Sam Wanamaker Theatre at the Globe and more recently the new Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford – brought fresh eyes to the process, creating a look that we hope will make the whole theatrical experience even more exciting, inspiring and comfortable.

Financially, the Oxford Playhouse is itself a great performer. Our Arts Council of England grant accounts for less than 11 per cent of our £4 million annual turnover, with more than 80 per cent coming directly from ticket and other sales.

This season has seen record sell-out runs including The Encounter, King Charles III, Single Spies and The Gruffalo. The coming season includes three home-grown world premieres – Peter Pan in Scarlet, the official sequel to the JM Barrie original; Sandwiches in the Sand, a new comedy about John Betjeman starring Edward Fox; and Snowflakes from CBeebies star Cerrie Burnell, based on her best-selling book for three- to six-year-olds.

The fact is the cost of putting on touring productions has significantly increased in recent years, but we have spent more to make more – increasing our sales, our income and our staff (we employ just under 100 people).

We try to keep ticket prices low – our top price is only £31 – and we present free theatre events all over the city as part of our Playhouse Plays Out Programme. We work with 30,000 children each year too.

However, our regular income will not stretch to paying for as substantial a refurbishment as the one required. The builders are here and we still have £130,000 of our £800,000 budget to raise.

We need your help. Buy a seat, buy two or more seats; or if you want to give more why not sponsor part of the theatre? Your contribution will make an important contribution to the theatre and the life of the city, helping to ensure that Oxford Playhouse won’t go dark again.

This is a ‘once-in-20 years’ appeal – we really do need your support to make a world-class theatre for a world-famous city.