The roots of Ovalhouse can be traced back to the 1930s and its foundations, as Christ Church (Oxford) Clubs, by the graduates of Christchurch College, Oxford. The young people from disadvantaged areas in South London were able to use the space for sports activities and were taken on away days along with skills training which they could use for the future. Since that time Ovalhouse has pioneered enabling forms of education and artistic endeavour.
Ovalhouse's reputation as
"one of the most important centres for pioneer fringe theatre groups" dates from the 1960s, when the club underwent a radical change in the policy of the club with the newly appointed warden, Peter Oliver (who became the artistic founder of Oval House Theatre) Peter took it upon himself to change the focus of activities from sport to drama; this changed everything and heralded the emergence of experimental theatre. This new and exciting style moved away from the narrative and approached the theatre space as a laboratory in which to explore new forms of performance. New companies such as Lumiere and Sons and The Pip Simmons Show used the renamed Oval House as a space to experiment and launch this new style in an optimistic era.
Oval House has played a key part in supporting the experimental theatre companies of the '60s and '70s, the emergence of gay and lesbian and women's theatre in the 1970's and 80's and the development of new Black and Asian writing in the '90s and into the next millennium. Now called just Ovalhouse, we still programme work by some of the most innovative, cutting edge theatre practitioners in Britain and beyond.