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Creation Theatre Company - Hans Christian Andersen's Magical Tales

25th December 2008 to 17th January 2009.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Sugar with medicine

Hans Christian Andersen laces his cautionary tales with humour

Hans Christian Andersen's Magic Tales, at BMW Oxford, until January 17

It is miraculous that Creation Theatre Company's seventh Christmas show in the Mirror Tent at the BMW Plant in Oxford can take place.

Battered and bruised after the terrible summer weather, Creation launched Hans Andersen's Magical Tales with producer David Parrish's plea for donations so that the company could continue through to the summer. Over the past decade they have existed without a penny of public subsidy and Creation productions are very much a part of Oxford's theatrical life.

Adapted by actress Lizzie Hopley, and directed by Caroline Leslie, Andersen's stories are, as with the Brothers Grimm, rooted in misery and pain. Just as medicine tastes sweet to entice children to take it, so Andersen has laced his cautionary tales with plenty of fun and grotesque humour. Hopley frames the production with a brother and sister stranded and lost in dark, dark woods. They are menaced by a faceless shadow and an irritable old man. To ward away their fears, they, and the old man, tell stories.

Some stories stand out more than others. In The Tinder Box, a crafty soldier chops off the head of an evil witch and discovers that her magic box summons a three-headed dog that ultimately eats the Queen for dinner. Great Claus and Little Claus is a highlight. Here, two brothers, acted by performers in masks, engage in a perilous competition of one-upmanship. The story involves the slaying of horses and grandmothers, and a farmer's wife with an aversion to plumbers with plungers. It is hugely enjoyable.

Delightful characterisations include the hoodie crow in The Snow Queen, who likes to end sentences with 'innit', and the sycophantic tailors with silly French accents in The Emperor's New Clothes. Reality bites for the naked emperor when a six year old girl cries out, "I can see his bum!" causing much merriment among the younger members of the audience. The Little Mermaid tugs the heartstrings when the pretty half-fish girl loses her prince to an ungracious landlubber. The young cast multi-task in traditional Creation style and the Mirror Tent is, as ever, an excellent space.