OXFORD’S largest theatre has finally opened – 525 days after it was forced to close at the start of the first coronavirus lockdown.

The New Theatre Oxford closed its doors on March 17, 2020, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised the public to avoid unnecessary social contact, including attending theatres.

Now, more than a year and a half later, the renowned George Street venue has opened its doors to the public with a spectacular staging of the West End favourite Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

Recently appointed theatre Director David O’Hara was there to meet guests on Monday and at last night's Gala reopening party. He said: “We are thrilled to be officially reopen after 525 days of darkness on the New Theatre Oxford stage.

“We’d watched as other venues opened their doors, but it is finally our turn, and we are delighted.

“The audience for opening night could not have been better.”

The staging of Priscilla – a musical which follows three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus bound for the Australian Outback – marks the return of entertainment to the historic stage, with forthcoming performances from a clutch of musicians, comedians and dancers and shows including Bat Out of Hell, Paul Weller, Chris Ramsey, Jersey Boys, the stars of Strictly Come Dancing and the 'queens' from RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Mr O’Hara added: “Priscilla Queen of the Desert is the perfect show to welcome back audiences with – it’s a fantastic, feel-good production, packed full of brilliant songs performed by an amazing cast.

“Whether you’ve seen the show before or it’s your first time, you will leave the theatre will a smile.”

The New Theatre is the last of Oxford’s theatres to reopen its doors.

The Playhouse, on Beaumont Street, welcomed back its first live audience for the year in June after almost 15 months in the dark – though had opened for small socially distanced events in the meantime.

Mr O’Hara said: “Everyone was so excited to be back and seeing live theatre on our stage once again.

“It’s also an exciting time for the team here at the theatre to have people back in the auditorium, we have missed it as much as our audiences.

After Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the musical Blood Brothers returns (August 31-September 4), this is followed by a series of one-nighters, including Alan Carr (September 11), Paloma Faith (September 16), Fisherman’s Friends (September 25), John Bishop (September 27) and David Essex (September 30).

Looking ahead to Christmas, audiences can look forward to School of Rock from December 13-January 1.

You can book tickets by visiting atgtickets.com/venues/new-theatre-oxford