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A Midsummer Night's Dream

Part performance, part treasure hunt - a new interactive version of Shakespeare's famous comedy
, Thu 23 June - Sat 30 July 2016

July 10, 2017
Midsummer Shakespeare Hits the Streets

Creation Theatre is well established as a staple of Oxford’s summer entertainment. Now in its twenty-first year, it shows no sign of growing old gracefully (thank goodness). A Midsummer Night’s Dream, reprised from last year, has hit the streets of Oxford in wonderfully anarchic style.

It is Shakespeare as you have very likely never seen or imagined it. You meet in secret locations with secret passwords to identify your fellow audience members and then you embark on a theatrical adventure which incorporates scenes enacted in offices and shops, car park and church, side streets and gardens. The ten actors do a wonderful job of telling the story and in gently encouraging the less confident members of the audience into embracing the interactive craziness of the production.

We never quite knew what to expect next and I am reluctant to reveal too many details of what went on because discovering it for yourself is part of the fun. Be assured that you may arrive wondering quite what to expect, but you will be sucked in and you will enjoy yourself and you will be amazed at the combination of modern technology and old fashioned clues, street theatre and knockabout fun. Where else will you experience a scene from inside a wh*** *** in a *** ****. Sorry, I am in danger of spilling the beans.

The ten actors were uniformly terrific, whether it was Egeus explaining his problems with his daughter to the bemusement of passers by, the Quincessential Players acting the hind legs off the ass or the young lovers running riot in a c**** y*** after the intervention of Puck.

A willingness to walk and stay on ones feet is necessary (and a visit to the loo beforehand is also advisable), but with those provisos I would thoroughly recommend this theatrical adventure to all but the youngest children. Long may Creation Theatre keep creating such imaginative versions of Shakespeare's plays.

July 4, 2016
An Ingenious Entertainment from Top to Bottom

'I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.'

So testifies Nick Bottom, spectacularly re-emerging from a fairy realm in incomprehension. The interaction between worlds in Midsummer is a great metaphor for the power of theatre, and this production wonderfully embeds the 'real world' of the play in the real world of beautiful buildings, streets and gardens. We find that it's not only Oxford's spires that dream - following a fairy pair down Hollybush Row, spying their king and queen through holes in a wall near OVADA, the audience is taken off the beaten track.

We are an audience, but also participants - following clues, furtively stalking cast members - in this treasure-hunt-like structure. Clues aren't pitched over the heads of kids, so there are many reasons to make this a family evening out. The experience is intricately designed, and the scattered audience begin in groups across western OX1. We then encounter individual characters sequentially, and the way they relate to their un-theatre-like locations is neat: Lysander sags off his job at a local printer's to Skype Helena, Hermia hustles a phone off us to set up her frenemy story arc with Helena, and so on. We're kept on the edge of our non-existent seats by wondering which passer-by will next reveal themselves to be part of the modern-day-adapted Athenian court, and whether we just accidentally interacted with an unsuspecting member of the public. Only uniting for the closing acts, our groups are somehow kept separate, so, respect to Creation Theatre for pulling off this logistically impressive and thematically appropriate treatment of a familiar tale.

Does all this count if the comedy falls flat? I suspect this production would only be admirable if so, but it passes the six-laugh test several times over. Our crew of rude mechanicals convey the merry hell of amateur dramatics, with all its rivalries, euphemistic directorial encouragements and vain ambitions. Simon Yadoo shines and gets his audience on side in the role he's always wanted to play, hilariously hammy 'in character' and stupendously, verbosely dim as Bottom in rehearsal. Shelley Atkinson plays director Patsy Quince with consummate matronly encouragement, and nearly made me spit out my complimentary wine with laughter when she took to 'the stage', and suddenly acted with the ineptitude of a rabbit in some headlights. Audience participation is sometimes a bore, but our thespians had us auditioning as nocturnal creatures and joining in with easy glee.

There are fun sonic elements, an entirely 2D reality projected onto surfaces, cartoonish physical theatre as the lovers quarrel and fight in a rainy churchyard, and Sam Davies' truly Puckish Puck (channelling Richard O'Brien), master of minstrelsy and disguise. This loose adaptation retains narrative arcs and maybe 60% of Shakespeare's text, adding improvisation and scattered reminiscences of The Crystal Maze, to immersively adapt this layered comedy and transform Oxford's byways into another realm. Fantastic.

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