It is strongly recommended that you both book early and arrive on time for The Tempest, curated by Creation Cruises, disembarking from (what is probably now not) a very secret location just over the Thames from Central Oxford. As you are getting settled into a comfortable mid-level cruise where the most excitement is likely to be a rude royal or a mildly indecent entertainer, Ariel ushers in the storm, the story begins, and the cruise ship crashes into the bleak concrete island of a minor industrial estate embedded in leafy Oxford, prone to flooding, bustling with start-ups, and overgrown with actors, extras, spirits, zombies, nettles and secrets.
Creation is one of Oxford’s most exciting companies, and director Zoe Seaton has created a curious beast out of Shakespeare’s famous romance. Part escape room, part scavenger hunt, part promenade, part urban exploration, where audience, extras and crew twitch between surveillance dystopias, coffee shop dramas and royal intrigues, alliances shifting and sympathies twisting. PK Taylor oozes out of the reeds to conjure Caliban among the moorhens; Keith Singleton makes a likeable rogue of Trinculo.
The overdressed preening, scheming courtiers (Madeleine McMahon is particularly fine as Sebastianne) squirm us into collaborators, yes-men on the cycle path. Ryan Duncan and Annabelle Terry sparkle as the young lovers, dodging security guards in tatty cars and magic monsters that live in warehouses, engaging our sympathy and our laughter. Simon Spencer-Hyde plays Prospero as a magician, almost invisible through the build-up, but leading up to a most spectacular prestige.
As the audience is steadily divided and conquered on the scramble through the scenes, the soft reality of a summer evening becomes augmented and enhanced by irrepressible stories and unsurpressable spirits, the very best of which is Itxaso Moreno, thrillingly demonic/elfin, exquisitely elusive, the ghost that haunts the production, Ariel.