A STAGE in the heart of Oxford that has seen everything from pantomimes to world premieres is getting ready to celebrate its 80th anniversary.

The Oxford Playhouse is marking the milestone by calling on members of the public to share their favourite memories from the Beaumont Street theatre’s long history.

Be it star-studded productions or comical mishaps, the team are keen to put audiences’ experiences of the theatre at the heart of celebrations.

The Playhouse was the last regional theatre to be built before the Second World War and opened its doors on October 20, 1938, with a performance of And So To Bed by JB Fagan.

Famous thespians to tread the boards are a who’s who of British talent with Judi Dench, Jeremy Irons, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Smith, Rowan Atkinson, and Ronnie Barker to name just a few.

Perhaps best known is the 1966 performance by husband and wife Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who led a student production of Doctor Faustus and now have a studio at the theatre named after them.

The star-studded history is testament to the Playhouse’s enduring ability to draw in top talent - often against the odds.

During the war years the Playhouse unexpectedly thrived, as it attracted actors and directors unable to perform in London’s closed theatres.

But the early 1950s brought new financial problems and the theatre gave its last performance in April 1956.

This was the first of several closures for the Beaumont Street venue, which struggled to maintain on a reliable financial footing.

Its last closure was in 1987, with the Playhouse shutting for four years before a grass roots campaign brought it to life once more.

In recent years the theatre has continued to thrive, with the building undergoing an £800,000 refurbishment in the summer of 2016.

Louise Chantal, the theatre’s chief executive, said: “Before we kick-off all our birthday festivities we want to hear about what our audience remembers from the last 80 years.”

For Ms Chantal, it is youngsters being introduced to a love of theatre that marks her favourite moments.

She said: “My first three years here have been full of wonderful memories and events, but I think the most special has to be watching my first panto with hundreds of excited children. It truly is our favourite time of year.”

Full details of the Playhouse’s 80th Birthday programme of events will be announced in June and will include four special co-productions as well as a celebratory gala on Sunday, October, 21.

Email anecdotes and memories to OP80@OxfordPlayhouse.com or drop a letter into the office.