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Creation Theatre Company - Twelfth Night

9th July to 5th September 2009.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

The rain it raineth nearly every day

Creation adopt contingency plan in view of inclement weather

Creation Theatre Company: Twelfth Night, at the Said Business School Amphitheatre, Oxford, until September 5

The last two wet summers deterred so many audiences from attending Creation Theatre Company shows that the producers faced massive financial difficulties. This summer, they have relocated to the Said Business School, where they have a weather-proof Plan B.

Audiences need not fear a potential soaking. The setting is a modern stone amphitheatre overlooking a central tree-lined courtyard. Driftwood has been placed in this courtyard, while the playing area is a sandy stage with a small rock pool and again more driftwood.

Apparently, press night needed Plan B, but on the night I attended, although the skies were dark and moody, the rain held off. It is worth packing a blanket, because Creation will not hire theirs out if the weather looks poor.

Heather Davies' cohesive production takes the conceit that a group of shipwrecked folk have landed on a desert island. All they have is a tome of Shakespeare, and whatever they can scavenge for a play. One by one, the castaways are picked for Twelfth Night.

The cast is mainly youthful and dynamic. Emily Pennant-Rea stars as a feisty, perky Viola, forced by her own shipwreck to take on male attire to become a courtier, Caesario. She falls for her boss, the effete Orsino (Stephen Carlile), who is in love with the bossy Olivia (Melanie MacHugh).

Pennant-Rea gives an intelligent performance, always engaged with the action, even when not in a scene. She, and the handsome Jonny Bower (Sebastian) should be snapped up by a major company.

Andrew Macbean's Malvolio is a sad, miserable codger. It is not difficult to see why a quintet of characters plays the equivalent of You've Been Framed on him.

Chief among the pranksters is Janet Greaves' Maria, whose motives are definitely hostile. She works with posh fool Andrew Aguecheek, (Carlile again, where he has a fun line in eye-popping incredulity) and Sir Toby Belch (Nick Earnshaw) who, although not rib-ticklingly funny does create some laughs. They are aided by Feste and Fabian (Antony Jardine) who gives the roles a Steve Cooganesque comic bluster.

An enjoyable and refreshing show for the summer.