Oily Cart Theatre Company

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Oily Cart is a London-based national and international touring theatre company founded in 1981. The company specialises in creating original, immersive, multi-sensory productions for babies and very young children under 5, and for children and young people who have profound and multiple learning disabilities, are on the autism spectrum, or are deafblind/multi-sensory impaired.[1] The emergence of Theatre for Early Years (TEY) has been credited to Oily Cart and Theatre Kit.[2] The company is a registered charity.[3]


Friends Tim Webb MBE,[4] Claire de Loon and Max Reinhardt founded the company in 1981. The first production was Exploding Punch & Judy.[5] Oily Cart has produced and toured over 80[6] original productions to theatres, arts venues, schools, hospitals and hospices. Performances often take place in unusual settings, such as hydrotherapy pools, trampolines or up in the air.[7] The company's name is a play on the name of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.[8]


  • Splish Splash (2018/2019), a co-production with National Theatre Wales performed in hydrotherapy pools for audiences with complex needs[9]
  • Light Show (2015/2016/2018), a show for audiences with complex needs which toured schools and arts venues across the UK and as part of Lincoln Center’s inaugural Big Umbrella Festival, “the world’s first month-long festival dedicated to programs for children on the autism spectrum and their families”
  • Kubla Khan (2017/2018), a multi-sensory adaptation of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem created in collaboration with charity Sense,[10] and the company’s first production with a version for young people who are deafblind/multi-sensory impaired[11]
  • In A Pickle (2012, 2015-17), an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale for 3 – 5 year olds commissioned by the RSC, which toured the UK and USA[12]
  • Baking Time (2003), an early years show in which audiences were given fresh bread baked live on stage[13]
  • The Bounce (2014/2015), developed with support from Ockham’s Razor, which was performed on trampolines for audiences with complex needs[14]
  • Something In The Air (2010/2012), also created in collaboration with Ockham’s Razor, which seated audiences with complex needs “in specially created ‘nest’ chairs raised into the air to fly in safety and comfort with the Ockham’s Razor aerialists.”[15]

Company management[edit]

Head of Design Claire de Loon left Oily Cart at the end of 2016. In January 2018, it was announced that Artistic Director Tim Webb and Musical Director Max Reinhardt would gradually step down over the next two years.[16] In November 2018, the company appointed Ellie Griffiths as its new Artistic Director, and Zoë Lally as its first-ever Executive Director.[17]


  1. ^ Gardner, Lyn (2016-10-14). "'If they say it's impossible, we're spurred on': the theatrical surprises of Oily Cart". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-08-20.
  2. ^ Brown, M (2012). Oily Cart: All Sorts of Theatre for All Sorts of Kids. Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books. ISBN 978-1858565101.
  3. ^ "Charity Details". beta.charitycommission.gov.uk.
  4. ^ "2011 Birthday Honours", Wikipedia, 2019-05-05, retrieved 2019-08-20
  5. ^ Oily cart : all sorts of theatre for all sorts of kids. Brown, Mark, 1971-. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham. 2012. ISBN 9781858565811. OCLC 859155483.CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ Curtis, Nick (2017-03-26). "Tim Webb of Oily Cart theatre company: 'It's very smelly and touchy'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-08-20.
  7. ^ Butler, Patrick; Young-Powell, Abby (2012-12-26). "Oily Cart company specialises in theatre for youngsters with complex disabilities". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-08-20.
  8. ^ Lewis, Barbara. "Theatre reaches out to autistic children", HealthyPages, 22 August 2004, accessed 10 August 2020
  9. ^ "Festival to mark 70 years of the NHS". 2017-11-23. Retrieved 2019-08-20.
  10. ^ "Theatre news: Oily Cart's Birmingham show for deafblind children". British Theatre Guide. Retrieved 2019-08-20.
  11. ^ Desk, BWW News. "Oily Cart Presents KUBLA KHAN". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 2019-08-20.
  12. ^ "Shakespeare? It's Child's Play: Oily Cart | Matt Trueman". Retrieved 2019-08-20.
  13. ^ Gardner, Lyn (2004-02-16). "Baking Time, BAC, London". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-08-20.
  14. ^ "Oily Cart Theatre: The Bounce". CriticalDance. 2014-10-27. Retrieved 2019-08-20.
  15. ^ Gardner, Lyn (2009-07-07). "Theatre review: Something in the Air | Contact, Manchester". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-08-20.
  16. ^ Hemley, Matthew (2018-01-18). "Oily Cart founders step down after 36 years". The Stage. Retrieved 2019-08-20.
  17. ^ Hemley, Matthew (2018-11-22). "Oily Cart announces management restructure following departure of co-founders". The Stage. Retrieved 2019-08-20.

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