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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Creation Theatre Company - The Oxford Passion

1st August to 8th September 2007.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Created with positive passion

The ever-inventive Creation company continue their experimental theatre with devised Passion play

The Oxford Passion, at Oxford Castle, until September 8

Unlike the Mystery Play, which narrated the Bible from Creation to the Second Coming, the medieval Passion play told the story of Christ from the Last Supper to the Crucifixion.

Passion plays took place in towns and villages across Europe, using the local community as performers, with the most famous of these being Oberammergau in Germany.

Creation Theatre Company, have not, as their name would suggest, revived a Mystery Play, but have instead devised the Oxford Passion. Based on a new translation of the New Testament by Nick King SJ of Campion Hall, the production takes place in the magnificent surroundings of Oxford Castle.

The text and lyrics are written in accessible, contemporary English by Lizzie Hopley, with direction from Creation regular Charlotte Conquest.

Unlike the virulently anti-Semitic medieval Passion plays, Hopley's version blames no one for Jesus' death, heavily promoting the idea that Jesus was always fated to be crucified and that he desired this outcome.

Judas is more of a positive political figure who opposes the current regime and recites the anti-Iraq war mantra "not in my name".

Central to the Oxford Passion is the figure of the Angel of Death, Gabriel, who, in the elfin Dami Olukoya, nearly steals the show from a neurotic Jesus (Tom Peters) with her soulful, jazzy singing and poetry. The Angel acts as the master of ceremonies, strengthening the lack of a blame culture.

Tom Peters, who has starred in many Creation shows, is tailor-made for his role as Jesus. Wiry, bearded, and handsome, he is the archetype for the part.

The number of disciples has been downsized to five, the majority of whom prove to be betrayer, denier and doubter.

Natalie Garrett, an actress who is ordained as a minister in the Church of England, makes Mary Magdalen a very posh, doe-eyed former prostitute.

The excellent community choir is given some very catchy numbers, composed by Peter Lole. The jaunty Kyrie Eleison, introduced in the short promenade scene in the market square, is a fun foot-tapper.

It is important that Creation continues to experiment. Take an extra jumper, though.