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Launch Festival 2024

Welcome to the Lakeside Theatre chalkboard

Launch Festival 2024

Welcome to the Lakeside Theatre chalkboard

It’s a four day festival of student theatre from the drama students of the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre studies at the University of Essex!


Join us each evening from 5pm to 9pm to support our drama students and help launch their careers as performers, theatre makers, artists and more.

The Lakeside Theatre Café will be open from 4.45pm to 9.30pm on Tuesday 14 to Friday 17 May for you to enjoy pre-show and interval refreshments.

Summer Term activity at the Lakeside

Samuel, our assistant technical manager hard at work in the tech box of the main theatre

Summer Term activity at the Lakeside Theatre

a performance from Launch Festival 2023 where a young woman is sat cross legged on a bed on a dimly lit in blue stage

You may have noticed that our programme is much smaller this term than it has been in the Spring and Autumn.

This is because as well as being an active and commercial theatre, we are also heavily involved in the teaching, support and development of theatre and drama students in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex and the Summer term is their main assessments period.

Our Technical Team are busy on a daily basis throughout the Summer term, working with drama and theatre students practically on their tech and rehearsals, helping them to get ready for their final performances.

Samuel, our assistant technical manager hard at work in the tech box of the main theatre

The rest of our team are also working hard on planning the delivery of our programme for the Summer months, and planning the Autumn term programme (which we can promise will be packed full of Homegrown theatre, professional theatre performances, workshops and more!).

Make sure you come and see the final year drama students Individual Professional Practice performances during the Launch Festival, Tuesday 14 to Friday 17 May!

Spring break opening hours

Two young men sit at an outside table ourside the Lakeside Theatre with the LAkeside Theatre branding on the window behind them

Spring break opening hours

This Spring break the Lakeside Theatre team are busy PAT testing EVERYTHING WE OWN, but don’t worry, while the theatres may be temporarily closed, our café will be open!

The Lakeside Theatre Café will be operating reduced hours throughout the Spring break, but you will still be able to enjoy great coffee, great snacks, a relaxed environment, and plenty of low-fi games and activities to enjoy while you unwind.

Two young men sit at an outside table ourside the Lakeside Theatre with the LAkeside Theatre branding on the window behind them

We’ll have outdoor seating available for you to enjoy a picnic vibe and will have a selection of drinks and snacks for kids too if you’re looking to enjoy a day out with the family at Wivenhoe Park this Easter Holidays.

Opening hours

The Lakeside Theatre Café will be open at the following times on the following dates:

  • Monday 8 April to Friday 12 April – 11am to 2pm
  • Monday 15 April to Friday – 8am to 7pm (please note this is spring graduation week)
  • Monday 22 April onwards – 8.30am to 3.30pm (usual operating hours with Essex Food)

Theatre and LGBTQ+ History Month

Noah poses in front of the Lakeside Theatre with his arms folded and his face beaming! He is wearing a plaid shirt and blue denim jeans.

This blog post was originally shared on the University of Essex blog, this is a re-blog.

PhD Theatre Studies candidate and Lakeside Theatre Front of House team member, Noah Alfred Pantano, has curated a month’s worth of events to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month at the Lakeside Theatre this February. In this blog post, he tells us about his motivation for taking on such a curation in the celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month and introduces us to the shows and events which make up the curation.

LGBTQ+ History Month

I consider LGBTQ+ History Month to be of even more vital importance than Pride Month itself. It’s one thing to be proud of where we are, but this month calls on us to pay respects to the people who helped get us here and those we’ve lost on the way.

In curating this month, I chose shows which were grounded in some way to our history, and in turn, suggests a way forward.

LGBTQ+ History Month is as much a reflection of our past as it is a demand for the future of our community. Speaking of community, each show features current students, alumni, and LGBTQ+ people throughout Colchester.

The curation

Shar Cooterie posing for Well Swung publicity

To start the season, we have Shar Cooterie: Well Swung on 10 February. I first saw Shar Cooterie perform her cabaret act back in October as part of Colchester Fringe. I was tasked with reviewing her show. As I described in my review, I did walk out halfway through the show. Because I had to use the bathroom, mind you, but it’s a minute or two I will forever regret.

What makes Shar Cooterie: Well Swung so unique is its reimagining of queer voices in a classic music medium. Taking inspiration from the likes of Post-Modern Jukebox, she takes modern queer songs and warps them into a familiar product of the past. This reinterpretation reminds us of queerness’ place through history. Queer people have always existed.

Shar Cooterie’s show gives a glimpse to a utopian revisionist past where queer voices can be amplified as they are now today. But introspection aside, Shar Cooterie and her accompanist Adam Saiz Abo-Henriksen are standout performers who are guaranteed to make you cackle.

Promotional graphic for Alice Stephens's Spit It Out

Next, PhD Creative Writing candidate Alice Stephens’s Spit It Out premieres on campus on 23 February. The work first began as Stephens’s MA Dissertation and has evolved to the full production at Lakeside that will soon tour the UK.

Emily is a transgender woman who is still not fully out to her family, workplace, and friends. The play charts her struggles with trans identity and the cyclical nature (and liberation) of coming out.

Stephens’s work is deeply rooted within queer history. For instance, the play directly calls out Thatcher’s Section 28 and reflects upon the ways it continues to haunt queer people.

Contrary to popular belief, coming out is not a one and done thing. It’s a non-linear process that too often goes back in on itself based on situation, historical influence, and the ever-shifting nature of identity. Emily is a mirror to transgender people today boldly combatting the ways trans people are still discriminated and marginalized, and situating how perseverance, friendship, and strength are the bedrock to identity.

Two Come Home promotional graphic

Our season closes out with the world premiere of Joe Eason’s Two Come Home on 1 March. Two Come Home follows Evan, a lonely former drug addict in the Appalachians, as his gay lover, alcoholic mother, and violently abusive father all return home.

Two Come Home takes inspiration from the likes of Tracey Letts and Queer Appalachian romanticism. What makes the show so unique, however, is its ultimate rejection of queer self-loathing.

Eason wrote Two Come Home to challenge the historical errors of queer narratives. Starting from the familiar place of the gay loneliness and rage, Eason has managed to develop a work that is moving and empathetic to its queer subjects. It’s a show I am certain will go far and set a new standard for queer dramas. Furthermore, if the emotional intensity of the work was not enough, the full live band is guaranteed to bring you to tears.

And the rest

The Watermelon Woman and We Were Here film posters

Accompanying these plays, we have two film screenings: We Were Here on 13 February and The Watermelon Woman on 21 February. Both films were chosen in collaboration with Dr Sean Seeger, Senior Lecturer in Literature in the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, to support his teaching, but the screenings are open and available to the entire University of Essex community.

We Were Here is a 2011 award-winning documentary about the AIDS Crisis in San Francisco by David Weissman. San Francisco holds a vital place in queer history and served a role in developing gay leather culture. We Were Here looks at the ways the government ignored, vilified, and ultimately, killed gay men during the AIDS Pandemic. But more so, it’s a moving tribute to those lives who were lost and the people who bounded together to save even more.

The Watermelon Woman is a 1996 pseudo-documentary film about filmmaker Cheryl Dunye (playing herself) discovering the history of the title character. After becoming obsessed with old Mammy films (films which feature the stereotype of an upbeat, black, enslaved houseworker), Cheryl embarks to discover who the uncredited “Watermelon Woman” is — only to discover that the actress was a lesbian with a white partner. The film is a brilliant play of genre and form making audiences invested in queer history. While the film is entirely fictional, the stories which it is based on are not. The titular character is an amalgamation of the erasure of queer stories waiting to be rediscovered. Dunye’s own plot in the film reflects on the ways history still affects us today and the parallels the past draws to the future. Both films are not to be missed (but I recommend bringing tissues).

A season about hope

With all these selections, the goal was to show the versatility of queer experiences and the ways history still follows LGBTQ+ people. This season should be educational, entertaining, and impactful. I hope by seeing all these works the viewer will leave viewing LGBTQ+ people differently, better understanding our struggles, our perseverance, and our way forward as a community. This is a season about hope.

Discover all the events at the Lakeside Theatre this LGBTQ+ History Month

Spring 2024 programme launches

Lakeside Theatre spring season 2024 launch graphic

Spring 2024 programme launches at the Lakeside Theatre

Repost: originally posted on the University of Essex blog.

Lakeside Theatre spring season 2024 launch graphic

We’re launching our spring 2024 programme of live theatre, performing arts, screenings, homegrown student productions, free workshops and more this January 2024.

The spring 2024 line-up

The Lakeside Theatre is the University of Essex’s Colchester campus theatre and is the hub for performing arts on campus. We aim to reflect the student experience with our shows, events and workshops and to make theatre accessible to everyone!

This spring, we are focussed on supporting the student experience at Essex with a range of LGBTQ+ shows, student theatre and creative workshops, but we also have family friendly shows and are playing host to some major University events too.

LGBTQ+ History Month

For LGBTQ+ History Month 2024 we will be hosting a variety of performances, workshops and screenings. Much of our LGBTQ+ line-up has been curated or created by University of Essex students and alumni and we are so excited to be able to showcase Essex LGBTQ+ talent!

Our very own Front of House star and PhD Theatre Studies candidate, Noah Alfred Pantano is curating and producing trans writer PhD Creative Writing candidate Alice Stephens’ pioneering piece Spit It Out which explores the process of coming out to friends and family, and Joe Eason’s Two Come Home, a play with music. Two Come Home is a world premiere and explores the harsh realities of being gay in a rural community, set to an incredible score!

We also hand over our beloved café space for an evening of drag cabaret with Shar Cooterie on Saturday 10 February. Enjoy an evening of queer classics performed by Shar and accompanied by Adam Saiz Abo-Henriksen on piano.

Two of our homegrown season shows explore lesbian and queer themes, don’t miss Swipe, Life and Gate Number 5 by East 15 alumna Henriette Laursen on 13 and 14 February and Sunrise by BA Drama alumna Stacey Paull on 20 and 21 February – both shows are only £5.50 entry.

We also welcome the incredible Chloe Filani to deliver a free writing workshop for students on 1 February. Chloe is a black and trans poet, writer, artist and performer and will facilitate a writing workshop in a safe and relaxed spaces where participants can explore their creativity and practice through sensory interaction and conversation.

In partnership with Noah Alfred Pantano and Dr Sean Seeger from the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies, we will be screening two core-text films from module LT976: Queer: Literature, Culture and History and while students taking the module are strongly encouraged to join us for the screenings, they are open to all staff and students at Essex to enjoy! Join us for David Weissman’s 2011 film We Were Here on 13 February and Cheryl Dunye’s 1996 film The Watermelon Woman on 21 February.

Family friendly

We are very happy to be able to offer a family friendly theatre performance at the Lakeside Theatre this spring! In response to Essex student and staff feedback about providing more family friendly options, we present Fuel Theatre’s Protest on Saturday 24 February.

Three girls prepare to stand up for what they believe in despite the injustices stacked against them in this new play exploring what it takes to make a difference, the power of friendship, and the importance of believing in your own voice.


From Vision Board Making to Creative Writing workshops, we are hosting a range of free workshops to help inspire your creativity in a relaxed and safe space. Our Vision Board Making workshops will help you manifest your best self this spring, while Creative Writing workshops, facilitated by PhD Creative Writing candidate Emma Kittle, will help you explore your creativity in a peer supported environment.

All our workshops are open to ANY University of Essex student, you don’t need to be studying Creative Writing to try your hand at it!

University events

The Lakeside Theatre will play host to a number of University events this spring. From Professorial Inaugural Lectures (PILs) to a very special celebration of the founding of the University’s museum, the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA).

You can find out more about the PILs which are scheduled to take place in the Lakeside on the Professorial Inaugural Lectures webpage and please book your place to welcome ESCALA founding directors, Professor Valerie Fraser and Professor Dawn Ades CBE, back to Essex for a very special talk on how they founded the Collection on Tuesday 23 January.


The Lakeside Theatre’s ever popular National Theatre Live screenings are back for the spring season with a really exciting line-up! Bringing theatre from the West End to Colchester, at very affordable prices!

Don’t miss Joseph Fiennes in Dear England on 25 January, Andrew Scott in Vanya on 22 February, Mark Gatiss and Johnny Flynn in The Motive and the Cue on 21 March and Michael Sheen in Nye on 25 April.

Homegrown season

Our homegrown season is here where we welcome University of Essex students, staff and alumni to perform on our studio stage for two nights! We will be announcing new homegrown shows throughout the spring season and shows are only £5.50 entry for everyone! Come and support our talented community of writers, actors and producers and find out more about our homegrown shows.

We also welcome BA Theatre Studies student Emma Kopf in a return to the Lakeside Theatre main stage with her new play, SpaceEater. Winner of the Essex Theatre Arts Society Re:Write competition in June 2023, SpaceEater promises to unnerve and entertain us all on Friday 8 March!

And where would we be without the Theatre Arts Society headlining our programme? We are very excited to present the Theatre Arts Society’s spring show, Twelfth Night! But not as you know it… Lolly Taylor and Alice Bain treat you to a Love Island inspired take on Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy on 14 and 15 March.

Welcome back

We can’t wait to welcome the University of Essex staff, student and alumni community and the Wivenhoe and Colchester communities back to the Lakeside Theatre this spring.

If you love the Lakeside, you can become a member from just £6 for 12 months membership. Lakeside Theatre members get a free tote bag when they join, free popcorn at National Theatre Live screenings, discounted tickets and discounted bar snacks and drinks too!

You can also sign-up to our newsletter to be the first to hear about new events! And make sure you follow us on InstagramFacebook and Twitter/X.

Café opens Monday 8 January 2024

A barista hands a young woman a coffee.

Happy New Year!

The Lakeside Theatre Café will re-open on Monday 8 January 2024.

We’ll be opening our café for limited opening hours from Monday 8 to Friday 12 January 2024 before Essex Food take over and we return to our usual Term Time opening hours from Monday 15 January.

Enjoy great coffee (other drinks available!) and a relaxing environment and beat the January blues with some fun café activities!

Monday 8 to Friday 12 January 2024 Opening Hours

  • 11am to 2pm

Christmas Closure

Snow falling lightly on the Albert Sloman Library with a christmas tree in front of it

We’re closing for the Christmas break!

The Lakeside Theatre Box Office will be closed from 5.30pm on Thursday 21 December 2023 and will re-open at 10.30am on Thursday 4 January 2024. This means that our doors will be shut, our phone-line will not be operational and our email will not be monitored.

Our staff will be taking a much earned break over this period and as such, will not be monitoring emails or calls during this time, but please be comforted that responding to enquiries received via email over the break will be our priority on Thursday 4 and Friday 5 January 2024.

You are welcome to contact us prior to 21 December 2023 by phone (01206 873261) or email ( or in person, for our Box Office Opening Hours, please see our Contact webpage.


Homegrown Season 2023-24 applications are open!

Lakeside Theatre Homegown Applications Open. A young black man in a light coloured tee-shirt and trousers sits on a red leather couch on a dark stage.

Applications for our Homegrown Season 2023/24 are open!

Have you got an idea for a show, spoken word, dance or musical performance? Are you working on a script? Are you a budding writer, poet, musician, dancer, director or producer looking to test out some ideas on a live audience?

It’s time to apply for the Lakeside Theatre Homegrown Season!

Find out more and apply online.

Applications open on Friday 24 November and close at 11.59pm on Monday 11 December.


We are hiring

Selfie theatre

Join the Lakeside Theatre team!

We are looking for enthusiastic, friendly and wonderful people to join our Front of House team.

Do you have a passion for theatre and experience in retail or venue front of house? This could be the perfect casual role for you!

Take a look at our vacancies below:

We are looking to appoint multiple new members of our Front of House team, so get your application in! Get working on your CV and Cover Letter now and please apply via the links above.

Applications close Tuesday 31 October at 11:59pm.

If you have any questions, please email us on

Good luck!

Black History Month

Ophelia Charlesworth performing You Are African First Before Everything

Black History Month

This October 2023, the Lakeside Theatre and Lakeside Theatre Café will be celebrating Black History Month. This year’s community theme is Celebrating the Sisterhood and we accepted the brief! So what have we got lined up for you?


Monday 2 to Friday 6 October, 9am to 5pm

Jerkpit Carribbean food, rice and peas and jerk chicken.

Join Barking based Caribbean restaurant, Jerkpit, for their pop-up in the Lakeside Theatre Café serving up authentic Caribbean food daily throughout the University of Essex’s Welcome Week! Vegetarian options available.

Find out more.

Thriving Socially at University

Wednesday 4 October, 2pm to 4pm

Shomi Williams delivers a Lafiya Health workshop to a crowded room.

Shomi Williams, Psychological Therapist and founder of inclusive health education African and Caribbean groups platform, Lafiya Health, will be delivering a wellbeing workshop in the Lakeside Theatre Studio specifically for University of Essex students.

Book your place.

Telling Your Own Story

Wednesday 18 October, 5.30pm

Tania Nwachukwu sitting on a chair looking on

Join Nigerian-British performer, writer and educator, Tania Nwachukwu, for an intimate skills training workshop on telling your own story confidently. The workshop will take place in the Lakeside Theatre Studio, and is specifically for University of Essex students.

Book your place.

Law Student to Theatre Maker

Thursday 19 October, 2pm

University of Essex law graduate and the visionary behind Steelacts Productions., Ophelia Charlesworth looks incredible in a purple suit jacket with her black kinky hair tied in a top knot.

Join Ophelia, a University of Essex law graduate who dared to chase her dreams in the world of acting, for this workshop in the Lakeside Theatre Studio. This workshop is FREE for University of Essex students.

Book your place.

You Are African First Before Anything

Thursday 19 October, 7pm

Ophelia Charlesworth poster for You Are African First Before Everything

University of Essex Law graduate and successful theatre company operator, Ophelia Charlesworth, brings her much anticipated show to the Lakeside Theatre.

This semi-autobiographical one-woman show delves deep into the intricate dynamics of the African mother-daughter connection. Meet Chile, a brilliant and ambitious woman in her mid-twenties, embodying the captivating fusion of her British upbringing and rich Nigerian heritage.

You Are African First Before Anything is followed by a 15 minute Q&A session.

Book your tickets.


The Lakeside Theatre programme is part of the University of Essex‘s celebration of black communities as part of Black History Month October 2023.