Magdalen College School, July-August 2002

You could stay in a fusty old room at home this summer and watch Big Brother - but why would you want to do that? Wander down to Magdalen College School and see Creation Theatre Company's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream: you'll thank yourself.

The outdoor stage nestled on the tip of an island leaves room for dreamy reflection and appreciation of the gentle breeze - until the show opens with a bang and the pranks and pyrotechnics begin. Mischievous, bawdy and physical, Creation's interpretation does full justice to Shakespeare's comedy. Expect plenty of oaths, curses, acrobatics, amorous entanglements and generally gleeful pandemonium. Shakespearean language is transferred to the stage with ease and clarity, making it readily accessible for children and teenagers, who should flock to the show. Adults will appreciate some very cheeky interpretations.

The acting is consistently vibrant. Darren Ormandy as a boisterous Bottom gambols and cavorts to universal delight. Damian Davis's Puck must be using real magic to perform those crafty pranks, and the hapless whining of Ava Burton's Helena puts Ally McBeal to shame. There is perhaps a slight lack of chemistry between Oberon and Titania, but individually both are very strong.

It is the mortals who dominate this version of the play: those wanting to see ethereal beings swathed in gossamer gowns will have to get used to a different kind of magic. Oberon and Titania are distinguished from other characters by wearing stilts, but their gestures and costumes are very modern and human. Cobweb, Peaseblossom, Mote and Mustardseed are reduced to small glowing lights in the palm of Titania's hand, a mere representation.

In many ways A Midsummer Nights Dream exhibits its own construction, displaying its seams through reference to the mechanics' play; Creation's design reflects this willingness to show how theatre is produced. Iron bars are visible poking out of Titania's throne; Oberon's short trousers show no coyness in displaying the stilts that create his otherworldly appearance. In short, the message is not to get too caught up in this weird world you're seeing on stage: there is nothing sinister here, just a hell of a lot of fun and games, human and divine.

Director Zoe Seaton shines the spotlight on the play's dynamic and comic heart; the (often uncontrollable) laughter of the audience testifies to her success. So: take a friend, and a family, and all the sceptics you can find. And if it's cold and damp, rent a blanket, snuggle up - and let Shakespeare keep you warm.

Hope Earl, 09.07.02