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Creation Theatre Company - A Midsummer Night's Dream

7th July to 10th September 2005.

From The Times.

Three stars
For the past ten summers Creation Theatre Company has mounted Shakespeare productions in and around Oxford. In the first years these were performed on an island in the river at Magdalen College School; next they were at the BMW Group Plant — using real vehicles, so that Hamlet was chauffered to his scene with Gertrude. In 2003 they moved to tree-packed Headington Hill Park, and though no one in last year’s Romeo and Juliet arrived by car the designer was able to make ingenious use of a giant oak.

For this tenth-anniversary production it is a soaring horse chestnut that occupies centre stage, but there are other trees near by, one for each of the four exhausted lovers to slump down beside and sleep as Phil Cheadle’s Puck sorts out the midsummer night’s muddle.

He’s something of a toughie but, like his master, a dab hand at magic tricks. Knives vanish and materialise in other hands. Twice I failed to notice how he abruptly appeared in the middle of the action. But his most astounding trick is to make the sleeping Lysander float up towards his outstretched hand. Kate Unwin is the production’s designer but Paul McEneaney is credited as visual consultant, responsible for the magic and the stilt-walking that gives Oberon and Titania such a convincingly other-worldly presence.

Everyone but Cheadle plays two characters, and a part of the charm in Zoe Seaton’s swirling production is to see the lovers rush out of sight behind the trees and return an instant later, still rushing, but now as Peter Quince and three of his aspiring thespians. Pippa Nixon is a forceful Hermia, charming when disconsolate, and Amanda Haberland a more fluttery Helena, seldom still for more than ten seconds, comical in her droops and pettish pouts.

Seaton has trimmed the play, for which we can be grateful. If Homer nods so does Shakespeare, and only pedants relish the slabs of classical allusions that he shoved in to convince his audience he’d read his Ovid. The doubling also means we are spared the lordly sneers when Quince’s boys do their Pyramus and Thisbe.

Darren Ormandy’s Bottom is jolly enough, though not out of the ordinary, except when translated, not just with an ass’s head but into the full four-footed creature, lumbering forward on stilts. In the end the odd lapse will hardly spoil a dreamy summer evening offering love, laughter and legerdemain.