Our Story

Playbox Theatre was created in 1986 by Founding and Executive Director, Mary King. Her vision was to create an artistic environment within which all children and young people could flourish! Driven by an artistic passion, Playbox would provide a natural home for those that wanted to explore the world they lived in, with imagination and theatre as the catalyst.

From a team of 80 excited and passionate members, meeting weekly in a village in rural Warwickshire…little did they know how rapidly the Playbox Family would grow! Read on to follow the adventure…

1986
  • Playbox opens its doors for the first time in a hotel room in Warwickshire. A winning formula of creating theatre with children was quickly established.
  • Michael Bogdanov accepted the invitation to become the company patron and the large cultural enterprise that is Playbox today was launched – the show is on the road…

1987
  • Founding Director Mary King consolidates the success of her first year, introducing new sessions, new opportunities and creating special summer holiday projects.
1988
  • The operation expands with the opening of a new Playbox in Warwick and the move into Kenilworth’s Talisman Theatre with increased hours, studio and rehearsal space.
  • Children and young people flock to their own professionally run organisation and both centres fill up.
  • A tour of Peter Pan for hospital wards is mounted. Our pioneering EARLY STAGERS theatre for pre-school children opens.
1989
  • A major year of expansion – Stewart McGill joins the company as Artistic Director. New centre opens in Balsall Common, Solihull.
  • News – a devised production based on the tabloid press is presented at the Royal National Theatre.
  • More productions are staged and seasons at Warwick Arts Centre are initiated. A first season is staged at the Edinburgh Festival.
1990
  • The three-centre operation continues to expand and Playbox moves into its Priory Road offices. New staff join us and a full production programme is developing with large productions for the Arts Centre and small-scale tours.
  • A Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet, wins acclaim both in Warwickshire and at Edinburgh Festival. Santa Monica Playhouse visit us from Los Angeles, initiating an important relationship.
1991
  • Playbox International created and the company undertakes a first trip to Poland at the invitation of the Ministry of Arts and Cracow City Council for the European Arts Festival.
  • News, The Selfish Giant and Two Houses based on Romeo and Juliet, travel.
  • Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, a lavish retelling of Lewis Carroll’s story plays to sell-out audiences at Warwick Arts Centre and a show for pre-school children, Henny Penny, wins friends at Edinburgh Festival.
  • A new centre Stratford-upon-Avon opens.
1992
  • Huge developments as Rugby centre opens.
  • Productions at home and on tour. An invitation to perform in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatre spaces in Stratford-upon-Avon with Alice and Henny Penny, whilst Pinocchio, using circus techniques, is hailed on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe “exquisite!”.
  • The company tour to the U.S.A. and perform The Cry Of Women, Pinocchio and Dreaming – a Shakespeare workshop, in Los Angeles.
  • A sixth centre opens Leamington Spa. Over ten major productions of distinctive style are now being created each year.
1993
  • Over 900 young people with Playbox Theatre Company.
  • The company return to Poland with The Trojan Women and Pinocchio and are filmed for National Television programme “Plum Boom!”.
  • Mary King stages a lavish and sell-out interpretation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and a funding investment from West Midlands Arts enables the company to commission and stage In Transit – the Chernobyl play by Paul Wignall.
  • Playbox make two television productions, Take 4 and How We Used To Live for Yorkshire Television.
  • Extensive tours, summer projects, international visitors and the securing of Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren.
  • The company initiate a new circus training and production facility Circus Of The Moon for young people and celebrate seven years of continued expansion and growth.
1994
  • Over 1,000 young people with Playbox as we open PLAYBOX IN THE CITY in Coventry.
  • Our companies tour Federico Garcia Lorca’s Yerma, sponsored by BT, in both the UK and USA.
  • Pippi Longstocking breaks our box office records at Edinburgh Festival after season at Warwick Arts Centre and Stratford-upon-Avon Festival.
  • We stage a major International Festival East Meets West in Kenilworth Castle, the first of its kind on an English Heritage site, with three companies from the USA and Japan.
  • Our biggest ever Christmas show The Three Musketeers sells out at Warwick Arts Centre and our USA tour is acclaimed as “outstanding”.
1995
  • Playbox stages a major multi-cultural work The Brave Magicians Of Mangalore at Warwick Arts Centre, and with the support from Central Television plc. takes an Education Programme on the road with trainers from SAMPAD (South Asian Music Performance and Dance).
  • Our Shakespeare treatment of Dreaming continues to win friends at festivals and Warwick Arts Centre with plans laid for extensions in the UK and overseas.
  • Playbox tour Japan with a reworking of Romeo & Juliet and re-staging of Pinocchio. So successful is this venture that the troupe is immediately invited to return! The Winter Season at Warwick Arts Centre of The Winter’s Tale and the first in our projected Grimm Cycle Rapunzel break box office records in December.
1996
  • Celebrating ten years of Playbox with Pinocchio at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
  • The Red Shoes – a multi-disciplinary premiere in development for the summer.
  • Seasons planned for Edinburgh Festival and in Stratford-upon-Avon with a third international tour in the USA.
1997
  • In partnership with Apollo Theatres (UK) Ltd., Playbox Theatre Company begin nation-wide opening programme and return to Japan.
  • THE DREAM FACTORY quest begins with our submission to the National Lottery for a £2.7m Creation and Development Centre to be built in Warwick.
  • The Red Shoes revived for final performances in the UK. Reynard The Fox receiving UK premiere in December. The Treasure Of Ogre Island re-staged by Bristol Playbox Theatre.
1998
  • Major international projects as Playbox Theatre Company’s creative team create the UK’s entry for the 1998 WORLD FESTIVAL OF CHILDREN’S THEATRE in Germany using young actors from Brewhouse, Burton-on-Trent.
  • The Juniper Tree is seen in the UK and EUROPE.
  • A Northern Base opens at Grand Opera House, York and UK tour takes Diane Samuel’s Kindertransport to regional centres, and the Award Winning NEWS re-staged in a former swimming pool in Bristol.
  • A spectacular celebration of the clown The Servant Of Two Masters opens in the summer and, eventually with Kindertransport, tours the USA.
  • Building of The Dream Factory commences in Warwick.
1999
  • THE DREAM FACTORY opens in May with an extensive preview season including the young production company’s Strikes, and epic Shakespeare production Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, a baroque masque Cinderella and visitors from the USA and Canada.
  • Adrian Mitchell joins Playbox to create the company’s Millennium show The Mammoth Sails Tonight! and plans are made to develop Greek tragedy, a new children’s show and an Elizabethan classic within the next twelve months.
2000
  • Playbox Theatre Company leaps into the new century with a new commitment to developing creative work on the studio floor. On our stages in 2000 we endeavor to provide innovation in creation and seek to explore the world in which we live through interpretations of classic work, new writing, devised performance re-valuing children’s literature and through our JINKS company a strong commitment to providing new work for the very young.
  • RON HUTCHINSON joins Playbox Theatre Company to create Beyond Beauty.
  • Twelfth Night and Heckedy Peg open in California and, in collaboration with Aardvark, our first book is published in mid-summer.
  • Explorations begin to develop a multi-media and publishing programme alongside our website.
2001
  • Playbox Theatre Company stage two festivals, a celebration of work for children and a confection of William Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies.
  • For Autumn 2001, a major multi-disciplinary creation Circ. Chicane featuring an international team of creators receives its premiere at The Dream Factory. The Autumn season also sees Peter Pan given a major reworking and the Shakespeare season ends with Hamlet.

Wendy (Nancy Hall) & Peter (Lynton Appleton) in Peter Pan.

2002
  • The company undertakes a restructuring exercise whilst opening new UK bases, creating diverse shows and planning a new US tour.
  • The Boyfriend brings the musical onto our stages, whilst Goldoni’s The Venetian Twins is staged in collaboration with Warwick & Leamington Festival.
2003
  • Playbox Theatre Company create new projects and forge some exciting new partnerships both in the UK and overseas.
  • On stage a diverse collection of work includes Ron Hutchinson’s epic new drama Believers originating with the events of 09/11. Leading Butoh exponent Marie-Gabrielle Rotie develops the movement techniques for this multi-media epic.
2004
  • Plots are laid to bring Cervantes Don Quixote to the stage for Summer 2004 in a new adaptation. The company rediscovered a magical musical and emphasis placed on the formation of ideas for future projects within the studio.
  • Playbox Theatre Company developed collaborations with new parties to bring exceptional work to our stages in the years ahead.
2005
  • Playbox Theatre explore new horizons. On stage the company produce a Hans Andersen trilogy to celebrate his bi-centenary and The Wars of The Roses adapted from Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays is staged in two parts both at The Dream Factory and at the historic site of Kenilworth Castle.
  • Playbox continue to provide creative content for new partners in new and unusual venues.
  • In the Autumn the company prepare for the upcoming birthday year with exciting new work from Young Production Company Dark River, a new show for under 10s – Dave’s Amazing Trainers, a multi-media Shakespeare Richard III, completing the staging of all Shakespeare’s History plays that run in sequence and for Christmas a groundbreaking new adaptation of a children’s favourite, Puss In Boots.
2006
  • The Twentieth Birthday in September is heralded by a series of innovative new projects.
  • Playbox is awarded the HRH Prince of Wales Arts & Kids Foundation Partnership to develop new projects for under 10s in 2006-2007.
  • Playbox commission the ‘monsterist’ play One Day In The Future by Sarah Woods for a September premiere.
  • Playbox stage a new creation, The White Album for both US and UK presentation, based on the making of the 1968 Beatles album and its influence on the times.
2007
  • A year of variety and change as Playbox re-imagine The Wizard of Oz, stage the premiere of Varjak Paw, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and a summer special staging of Disney’s High School Musical. For the Winter, the company develop The Snow Queen, blending disciplines for a special seasonal journey.
  • Playbox open a new chapter and plan for the future inspired by the many young people who have paved the way.
2008
  • A series of new and innovative projects in development in preparation for the 2009 landmark year of ten years at The Dream Factory. The company set out plans for the next ten years.
2009
  • As the company build towards ten years at The Dream Factory plans are laid to create a flagship performance company in circus and multidisciplinary arts, the Young Shakespeare Company launch two productions, Hans Andersen’s The Wild Swans is in development for summer by the creative team of The Red Shoes (1996) and a new Space 3 – Big Top is set to arrive in mid-summer for a programme of development in performance.
  • Playbox Theatre re-affirms its commitment to providing a creative laboratory for young people in performing arts.
2010
  • Playbox Theatre complete the journey 1986-2010 by establishing a model national theatre for young people based in the Heart of England reaching young people through an extended programme of tours, special projects, residencies, innovative planning and new ventures.
  • A re-imagining of The American Tribal love-Rock Musical Hair opens a two-year thread to tackle contemporary attitudes to global unrest under the banner ‘Children are the first to suffer in any conflict’. This develops through Warriors to re-establish our presence at Edinburgh 2010 and the UK premiere of Christine Evans’ stunning variation on Greek tragedy, Trojan Barbie in the Autumn both in Warwick and Leamington.
  • To close 2010 Playbox staged a lavish and spectacular Victorian inspired pantomime – the company’s first, Cinderella.
2011+


Playbox continues to expand and reignite artistic programmes for young people. New writing, international touring, the ever developing Shakespeare Young Company made its first foray to the USA.

Ustinov Theatre School – our open-access training programme funded by Sir Peter Ustinov Foundation, and much more.

As with the past, so with the future, it is the creative passion of young people that drive the company to reach greater and greater heights.

We hope you will join us on the journey.