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Playbox Theatre
The Dream Factory
Stratford Road
Warwick CV34 6LE
United Kingdom​

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and values

Home | Our Story and Values

Playbox Theatre was created in 1986 by Founding & Executive Director, Mary King. Her vision was to create an artistic environment in 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 at its heart.

From a team of 50 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…

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1986

  • Playbox opens its doors for the first time in a hotel room in Warwickshire.
  • The late, great, Michael Bogdanov accepted the introduction to become our Patron.
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1988

  • A growing Playbox expands to open new centres in Warwick and Kenilworth, with 100s more children joining our workshops.
  • Our first ever production was staged – it was a version of ‘Peter Pan’ which toured to children’s wards in hospitals across the region.
  • Pre-school Playbox was born, with brand new workshops for 3-4 year olds, now known as the wonderful EARLY STAGERS.
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1989

  • Stewart McGill joins the company as Artistic Director.
  • Lots more Playbox centres open, with new workshops in Balsall Common and Solihull.
  • NEWS – a devised production based on the tabloid press is presented on the Olivier Stage at the National Theatre.
  • Our first of many seasons at Warwick Arts Centre are initiated. A first season is staged at the Edinburgh Festival.
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1990

  • The wonderful Santa Monica Playhouse visit us for the first time, with a spectacular performance of ‘Dear Gabby’ and the forging of a life-long friendship takes place.
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1991

  • Playbox International Tours is created and a troupe of 21 young people undertake a performance tour to Poland, at the invitation of the Ministry of Arts and Krakow City Council for the European Arts Council.
  • Stratford Playbox opens its doors for the first time and a wonderful new branch of the company is born.
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1992

  • Playbox takes centre stage as part of Royal Shakespeare Company’s Winter Visitors’ season, with productions of ‘Alice In Wonderland’ in The Swan Theatre, and ‘Henny Penny’ in The Other Place.
  • Our first tour to Los Angeles takes place, with productions of ‘The Cry Of Women’, ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘Dreaming’ – it’s hailed as a huge success!
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1993

  • Over 900 children are now attending Playbox, at centres across the West Midlands.
  • Playbox makes two television programmes, ‘Take 4’ and ‘How We Used To Live’ for Yorkshire Television.
  • Circus training with Playbox opens for the first time, with ‘Circus Of The Moon’ and we celebrate 7 years of joyful expansion.
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1994

  • Playbox now has over 1,000 members, attending every week.
  • We stage a major international festival ‘East Meets West’ in Kenilworth Castle, with companies from Japan and USA working alongside us.
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1995

  • Playbox stages a major multicultural work, ‘The Brave Magicians Of Mangalore’, with trainers from SAMPAD.
  • Playbox tours to the wonderful Model Language Studio in Tokyo, with productions of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ and ‘Pinocchio’.
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1996

  • We celebrate 10 yrs of Playbox with a gala circus-theatre production of ‘Pinocchio’ at RSC’s Swan Theatre.
  • ‘The Red Shoes’ takes Playbox productions into a new league with aerial, stilt-walking, acrobatics and dance, as a major work staged in UK and USA.
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1997

  • The quest for The Dream Factory begins with a submission to The National Lottery for £2.7m.
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1998

  • After a successful Lottery bid, building of The Dream Factory begins in Warwick!
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1999

  • The Dream Factory opens its doors for the first time with celebratory productions of ‘Strikes’, ‘Henry IV Parts 1 & 2’ and ‘Cinderella’.
  • Playwright Adrian Mitchell joins the Playbox team to create the company’s Millennium show, ‘The Mammoth Sails Tonight’.
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2000

  • Hollywood screenwriter, Ron Hutchinson, writes a brand new play for Playbox, inspired by the tale of Sleeping Beauty, ‘Beyond Beauty’ sells out for Christmas.
  • More and more courses open at The Dream Factory, offering young people increased opportunities across the performing arts.
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2001

  • A major collaboration with directors from Cirque du Soleil as we create ‘Circ Chicane’ – our largest circus-theatre production to date.
  • For Christmas, ‘Peter Pan’ breaks all of our previous box office records, as cast soar above the stage.
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2003

  • Another major new work is created in response to the terror attacks on World Trade Center. Ron Hutchinson rejoins us to write, ‘Believers’, which features performance alongside live digital video mixing. The piece provokes a moving, strong, reaction in both UK and USA.
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2005

  • Playbox Theatre’s exciting adult wing, Generator stages an epic production of ‘The Wars Of The Roses’, adapted from Shakespeare’s ‘Henry VI’ plays. These are performed at The Dream Factory and in the historic setting of Kenilworth Castle.
  • Playbox commissions playwright, Toby Quash, to create more plays for young audiences, including ‘Oddweek’ and ‘Dave’s Amazing’ Trainers’.
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2006

  • Our 20th birthday year could not be busier! Playbox is awarded the HRH Prince Of Wales Arts & Kids Foundation Partnership, to develop new projects for under 10s in 2006-2007.
  • Playbox commissions the playwright, Sarah Woods, to develop a new ‘monsterist’ play that tackles troubling environmental issues. ‘Once Day In The Future’ features a cast of 70 young people and is met with huge acclaim.
  • Playbox stage a new creation, ‘The White Album’ for both US and UK audiences.
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2007

  • Pink Floyd’s mighty album, The Wall is brought to the stage with stunning acting and magnificent live music.
  • Disney’s ‘High School Musical’ delights cast and audience alike on stage at The Dream Factory.
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2008

  • Playbox returns to USA with a new adaptation of ‘Monkey – Journey To The West’.
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2009

  • As we celebrate 10 years at our home, The Dream Factory, Shakespeare Young Company is created and teems with young people who are passionate about delving into the work of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.
  • Playbox member, Sophie Turner, is cast as Sansa Stark in the upcoming sensation, ‘Game Of Thrones’.
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2010

  • The Playbox Agency opens, giving members the chance to audition for professional theatre, film, television and radio productions.
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2011

  • Playbox opens the UK’s first Ustinov Theatre School, in partnership with Sir Peter Ustinov Foundation, and world-class training becomes available to more young people than ever before.
  • Creative Writing programmes are offered by Playbox, for the first time ever, and the start of an exciting new wing of the company is launched.
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2013

  • A spectacular new adaptation of ‘Sir Gawain & The Green Knight’ is written by Toby Quash, and brought to the stage by a superb cast of Playbox actors.
  • ‘The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe’ proves a box office smash for Christmas!
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2014

  • Huge success for the Playbox Agency, as young actor, Tasha Chapple, is cast in the title role of ‘Matilda’ in The West End, and stays with the production for 18 months.
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2016

  • A new international partnership is created, and Playbox tours to San Francisco, for a wonderful exchange with ‘Bay Area Children’s Theatre’.
  • Two epic versions of ‘Alice In Wonderland’ storm the theatre over Christmas.
  • Playbox creates ‘The Resident Ensemble’ – an intense, year-out, theatre programme for young people, post school, preparing for a career in the arts. It is a phenomenal success!
  • ‘Games & Thrones’ is a major project, tackling Henry VI Parts 1, 2 & 3, performed in traverse at The Dream Factory, and then in the beautiful setting of St Mary’s Church in Warwick.
  • Our epic ‘Mysteries’ cycle performs at The Dream Factory, St Mary’s Church and Royal Shakespeare Company’s beautiful Swan Theatre.
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2017

  • A roaring new project takes over The Dream Factory, in collaboration with Mercedes F1 Petronas. ‘Formula X’ turns the main theatre into a race track, with thumping music, circus and dance, inspired by the exciting world of Formula 1.
  • A huge success for the Playbox Agency as actor, Nathanael Saleh, achieves the role of John Banks in Disney’s ‘Mary Poppins Returns’.
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2018

  • More success for the Playbox Agency, as we achieve our first Netflix casting success, ‘Letters For The King’.
  • Our site in Warwick achieves full independence, with the opening of our new road, our own theatre access, and extended parking for all visitors. This is a major achievement!
  • Our largest company on record tour to Los Angeles, for a very successful exchange with Santa Monica Playhouse. Over 30 cast members take 3 productions, performing to sell-out audiences in the city.
  • More West End success for the Playbox Agency as Tom Lomas is cast as ‘Bruce Bogtrotter’ in the RSC national tour of ‘Matilda’.
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2019

  • Playbox receives major funding from Arts Council England, to fully upgrade The Dream Factory, bringing it up to date as a state-of-the-art complex for the artists of today and tomorrow!
  • Playbox stages a major new adaptation of Hans Andersen’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’. Our own ‘Gretel’ is written by Toby Quash, and features integrated video design, alongside the live performances. It is amongst our most exciting shows in our history.
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2020

  • The world shifts, as Covid-19 brings new, and frightening, challenges. Our Playbox Team respond with vigour, and the entire operation moves online, ensuring that young people can still thrive through a huge programme of artistic work.
  • As income stops overnight, Playbox must think of fresh, new, ways to operate, new strands to the company’s work, and major fundraising efforts begin.
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2021

  • We made it through the pandemic! With renewed ENERGY, ENTHUSIASM & PASSION, we celebrate a magnificent return to live work with 1,000s young people every week. We look to the future with excitement and have huge plans underway.
  • Shakespeare Young Company bring a new production of ‘Hamlet’ to the main stage, heralding a return to major indoor theatre at The Dream Factory.
  • The Phoenix Theatre opens outside, with support from Arts Council England, we can continue to deliver a wide range of beautiful work, in completely Covid-safe settings.
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Our Story