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Creation Theatre Company - Measure for Measure

19th March to 12th April 2008.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Viennese whirl

Creation Theatre: Measure for Measure, at the North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford, from Wednesday, March 19 to Saturday, April 12

Creation Theatre Company's latest project, Shakespeare's Measure For Measure was performed at the North Wall Arts Centre at St Edward's School, Summertown, Oxford. This new 250-seat space is reminiscent of The Watermill theatre inside the auditorium, and the National Theatre in the foyer. It is a great addition to the theatrical landscape in Oxford.

Jonathan Holmes has adapted Measure For Measure so that it concentrates on the core themes of political and sexual corruption.

Shakespeare's Vienna is a strange, dissolute place, so full of Italians that it could very well be Venice. At the start of the play, the cast mime a Viennese whirl of provocative, sexual acts indicating the lewdness of the city under its lax ruler, the Duke (Noel White).

He hands over the reins of power to Angelo (Adam Newsome), despite Angelo's confession that he is not the right man for the job. In no time, Angelo is cracking down on sin and debauchery, imprisoning a young man, Claudio (Richard Neale) for getting his girlfriend pregnant, and arresting a notorious bawd, Pompey (Richard Kidd), who is let off with a caution.

The play's most exciting scenes are when Claudio's sister Isabella (Amy Stacy, another luminous performance for Creation) is goaded by Claudio's iffy friend Lucio (Alexander Caine) into persuading Angelo to release Claudio from his death sentence. Fantasising about Isabella as a sex object, he offers to trade her virginity for Claudio's life.

As Laurie Maguire, Magdalen College's Shakespeare don, pointed out at the recent Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival, what makes this scene so compellingly relevant is that Shakespeare makes the audience ask: 'what would I do in Isabella's position?' knowing that sexual harassment is commonplace.

Isabella's horrified reaction is compounded when the Duke, disguised as a priest, falls in love with her. The ending is brilliant with Isabella's face full of bemused puzzlement at her eventual marital fate, her body pressed against prison fences, while at the same time Lucio and Angelo are also forced to marry against their will.

Great cast, superb grungy set (Lucy Wilkinson) and strong performances. One of Creation's most impressive productions.