My name’s Jonny Donahoe. I’m a comedian, actor and writer and I’ve lived in and around Oxford all my life. When I’m off on tour, it’s where I come back to – especially around the holidays. But this year something special happened: I was asked by the Old Fire Station to make a brand new Christmas show for them. It’s called THIRTY CHRISTMASES – a sort of rebellious comedy for grown-ups with songs (and unusual festive foods). It’s the first Christmas show I’ve written, and the first show I’ve made for Oxford since I was a kid – so I’ve found myself reflecting on friends, family and community.
The first play I ever wrote I sent to the Old Fire Station Theatre, pretty much on a whim, and they called me in a week later for a meeting. It was 2000, I was 17 and the play was, (quite imaginatively), about a 17 year old trying to write a play. Write what you know.
Whether they saw something in it or were just desperately short of bookings they offered me a week’s run at the end of my summer holidays, if I could get a cast together. Easy. I cast myself and three friends, got a director and designer and the play went on. Back then The Old Fire Station wasn’t in the best shape, but I thought it a paradise. People came to see the play; and The Oxford Times review said it was ‘extremely funny’ followed by a host of other less complimentary things that we didn’t put on the posters. It was my first professional job (we shared the profits equally between the team, I think £40 each); and without the experience I would probably have never ended up being a professional writer and performer.
I’m now 33 and I’m coming back. OFS is much changed. Once a bit decrepit, it’s now an incredible building and organisation. Working alongside Crisis, they are now the kind of Arts Centre and community space every city in the world would be massively proud, and lucky to have.
I’m massively proud to have THIRTY CHRISTMASES premiering there. I’ve been thinking a lot about Oxford and what it’s meant, so the play is about an unconventional family growing up in Oxford. Like I said: write what you know.
It’s Oxford’s only Christmas show for grown ups: the story of two siblings who haven’t had a good Christmas in years. This time, they’re going to get it right: join them for a joyful, heartfelt comedy about trying to make Christmas happen…despite everything. After the disappearance of their father one Yuletide, they try and muddle through celebrating every year afterwards. It’s stuffed with music (songs by Jonny & The Baptists, of which I am one half) laughter and love, for anyone who’s ever had a good or bad festive season.
We’ve got a great team, all of whom are also connected to Oxford. I hope you’ll come, and enjoy it. I hope the Oxford Times will like it too, because I suspect reading their review will make me feel like that teenager again, desperate for approval. I hope it’s a success, because the Old Fire Station deserves every accolade going. But whatever happens, it’s nice to come home.
30 Christmases is at the Old Fire Station 13 – 23 December. £15/£12. Click here for dates, time and booking.