Staging Swallows and Amazons - the action of which ranges over a huge lake, onto several islands and up a mountain or two - is no mean feat, but Creation Theatre, with their famously original approach to performance, have pulled it off. The stage was set up in University Parks, in front of the duck pond, with crates, half-built boats, and a semi-circle of blow-up dinghies that the younger (and some of the older) audience members could sit in. Slowly, the actors began to filter onto the stage, all holding their fingers up to test which way the wind was blowing (literally, not metaphorically) before launching into a production that was bristling with pirates, peril, discovery and fun.
If you're a fan of the original story, you won't be disappointed; this is a faithful adaptation, combining all the major plot points of Arthur Ransome's novel with a catchy musical score (the 'Amazon Pirates' song is going to be stuck in my head for the rest of the week). I wouldn't be surprised if this production got Swallows and Amazons some new readers, either; the children in the audience were excited and engaged all the way through. There was one change from the original that I did welcome - instead of the references to 'savages' and 'natives', the adults are referred to as 'barbarians', avoiding some of the imperialistic undertones of the 1930 novel.
The company has kept the spirit of adventure and imagination that makes Swallows and Amazons such a beloved book, and added a generous dollop of humour that got a chuckle from everyone in the audience. Andy Owens gave an excellent turn as seven-year-old Roger, while Venice Van Someren was the heart of the show as adventurous middle child Titty. The production was fast-paced, with a few of the actors swapping characters in the middle of scenes - Matthew Wellman, who played Uncle Jim and every other male adult in the story, was particularly good at playing this for laughs.
If you're eagerly awaiting your summer holiday, or you've just come back from one and are missing it already, Creation's Swallows and Amazons is the perfect show; fun, family-friendly, and full of excitement. Head along before it sails off into the sunset - and watch out for pirates!