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Creation Theatre - Romeo and Juliet, and As You Like It

July to September 2001, at Oxford (open air).

Review of Romeo and Juliet from the Newbury Weekly News.

Love is the drug

'ROMEO AND JULIET', in Magdalen College School Grounds, Oxford, from Monday, July 2 to Saturday, September 1

Creation Theatre Company's annual Shakespeares in the park are fast becoming as important a tradition to Oxford as the Globe's revival has been to London. Local audiences and tourists are flocking across dainty white bridges and a cricket pitch to an idyllic location between two rivers to see exciting and accessible productions by up-and-coming directors and actors.

The first of two productions this summer is 'Romeo & Juliet', directed by Richard Beecham. The play is about opposites attracting, about duality. When we arrive there are two groups, chatting and playing music, gathered in different areas of the stage.

A young girl in the audience cleverly remarked: "I think this is going to be a modern Romeo & Juliet." Certainly the interval arrival of a police helicopter with its searchlights above the park gave the evening a touch of Bazz Luhrmann.

The cast is young and full of energy, dressed in jeans and T-shirts, bright and alert to the teenage sensibilities of many of the characters. Danny Nutt's Romeo is a charming, very boyish lad who seeks to please, and is mightily confused about women. Lisa Ellis as Juliet is a revelation: petite, cutely coy, full of giggles and squeaks, nervously moving her head like a tiny bird being eyed up by neighbourhood cats. This is a Juliet attracted to Romeo because of the opportunities to escape her pompous parents, as she is unimpressed by Romeo's lovemaking. she pointedly accuses him of "kissing by the book" after their first snog.

The programme notes argue that the central theme of the play is love and death. Juliet links maidenhead with dying; even her mother (Emma Pallant) says regretfully about Juliet that "I wish the fool were married to her grave". She gets her wish as this is a play where the good die young.

The most dashing of Romeo's posse, the lively and passionate Mercutio (Rik Young), is murdered by the revengeful Tybalt (Anthony Washington - who doubles skilfully as the flawed conspirator, Friar Lawrence).

Mention must be made to Viss Elliot's pre-Raphaelite Nurse, worldly-wise, humorous, caring and ethereally sexy. This production is seriously good fun.


Review of As You Like It from the Newbury Weekly News.

It was just as they liked it

'AS YOU LIKE IT', in Magdalen College School grounds, until September 1

'As You Like It', the second of Creation Theatre Company's summer Shakespeare productions in Magdalen College School grounds in Oxford is a real delight. Employing a totally different cast to Romeo & Juliet, director Charlotte Conquest has created a forest of Arden filled with entertaining personalities, hilarious comic turns, and energetic song and dance routines composed by songwriter Peter King

'As You Like it' is a play which begins like a tragedy: warring brothers, usurping dukes and a court where jealousies are rife. Initially directed in a gloomy expressionist manner to convey this unhappy time, the nobles dress in black and carry umbrellas. Fleeing civilisation for a bright and gaudy Paradise Lost in Arden is a group who come to realise that in life, all you need is love, and conflicts are resolved.

Into this Elysium emerges the beautiful Rosalind (Alison Pettitt), smitten by fellow evacuee Orlando (Luke Healy), accompanied by her cousin Celia (Kate Copeland) who eventually will fall for Orlando's once-evil brother. In a plot used centuries later by Robin Williams in Mrs Doubtfire, Rosalind cannot bear to be apart from Orlando, but politics means that she must disguise herself as a peasant lad, Ganymede, and become Orlando's best mate.

With a hilarious twist of gender-bending insanity, Rosalind as Ganymede persuades Orlando to pretend that Ganymede is Rosalind and make love to him as a her! Pettitt has many talents to excel in this duplicity. Her prettiness is difficult to disguise but her sighs, coy glances and forays into a deep voice convey the confusion of a boy who is a girl who loves a boy while fending off another girl who has fallen in love with Ganymede.

Two of the most intriguing roles are the fool Touchstone (Ben Fox), a fussy man who eats a single strawberry wrapped in a large white napkin and who's in love with a peasant girl who collects dung, and Melancholy Jacques (Noel White), who wanders through the forest determined not to enjoy himself. They are both of sub-plot status but stand out owing to the strengths of the performers' characterisations. Definitely recommended for the summer.