Creation Theatre's Twelfth Night, at Headington Hill Park until July 28
After many happy summers enjoying Creation Theatre Company's productions in Magdalen College School gardens in the enchanting space between the split in the Cherwell in front of the cricket pitch, surely one of the loveliest spaces for drama in the UK, we now have the pleasures of seeing Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in Headington Hill Park, about 10 minutes walk away from its previous venue.
The new outdoor theatre is much more convenient in terms of providing creature comforts, and the trees surrounding the sandy stage are attractive, but some of the magic, as well as many of the midges, have gone. Fortunately the essential creative heart of the company continues to beat in Charlotte Conquest's entertaining 1950s set production where the characters could have popped out of one of those cheery old Terry Thomas films.
Conquest accentuates the comedy. The practical jokers of Justin Webb's golf-clubby Sir Toby, Alexander Caine's geeky Sir Andrew, Jane Arden's excellent, provocative Maria, Tim Funnell's cheeky
chappie Feste and Tom Peters' stereotypical French chef Fabian are a treat.
When they dance or sing along to a range of period jazz numbers you really want to join in the fun. When they trick David Frederickson's Victor Meldrew-ish Malvolio they leave the pompous, officious dreamer looking like a refugee from a Butlins' beach party. The gender-bending romantic scenes are well directed with girl-as-boy Viola (Lydia Fox) transfixing the pretty Olivia (Sasha Waddell), taking her mind off the recent death of her brother, while falling in love with the suave, Errol Flynn-ish Orsino (Peters again).
Many of the characters find that their lives have changed during the course of the play. Twelfth Night is the eve of the Epiphany when the Magi recognise baby Jesus as Christ.
In this play, epiphanies reveal former enemies as friends, loves are discovered to be pipe dreams and new relationships are formed by the intervention of chance. The darkness inherent in Antonio's story and the devastating loss of brother and sister is mostly sidelined in favour of a feel-good, effervescent, life-affirming comedy of love. If the weather stays good, make your way up the A34 for another summer sizzler.