COMEDIAN and raconteur Stephen Fry will join stars playing a fundraiser at an empty Oxford Playhouse.

The show will raise money for the theatre which is fighting for its survival after more than three months of closure. However, with live theatre still forbidden, the stars will play to a deserted auditorium.

As well as raising funds for the Playhouse Plays On appeal, the show is a protest at the Government's ruling that theatres can open, but without live performance.

Read more: Jobs go as Oxford Playhouse fights for its survival 

Also appearing are comic Marcus Brigstocke, Playhouse panto favourites Ricky Oakley and Paul Biggin, Natalie Paris as Jane Seymour from SIX The Musical, and Amantha Edmead with an extract from her award-winning solo show SOLD.

All performers will appear live at the deserted theatre, other than Mr Fry, who will appear in a pre-recorded video.

More names are to be announced.

Witney Gazette:

The hour-long presentation will be livestreamed on Wednesday at 8pm, with tickets charged at £25 per device or household. As part of the protest, seats will be limited to 632 – symbolically representing a full house at the Oxford Playhouse, and highlighting what they see as the ridiculousness of not allowing a real audience back inside with social distancing.

Instead of audience members, 'occupied' seats will be illuminated by lights.

Tickets go on sale at noon today.

Read more: Turn your lockdown experience into a work of art for the Ashmolean

Theatre director Louise Chantal said: "The Covid-19 crisis has affected every aspect of our lives, but for the thousands of artists, creatives, producers, technicians and venue staff who work in the performing arts, this closure could mark the end of their careers in the sector.

"Theatre, comedy, music and even panto are all under threat.

"The whole theatre industry is waiting on tenterhooks for a decision on extended government aid to mitigate the reduced capacities and nervous audiences to come.

"Many of our producing partners have cancelled tours, meaning we may have gaps in the programme for some time.”

She said Playhouse staff were frustrated at the ban on live performances and had partnered with the city's Jericho Comedy Club to livestream a comedy gig with no audience, to demonstrate the stupidity of the ruling.

The show is directed by Oxford actor and director Simon Evans, who has found fame on lockdown with his BBC show Staged, starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen.

  • Tickets go on sale at noon today (Friday). As the theatre is closed, all bookings must be made online at oxfordplayhouse.com