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Creation Theatre Company - Swallows and Amazons

9th July to 11th August 2018

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Theatre by the lake

University Parks is a special place to see Swallows and Amazons

Creation Theatre: Swallows and Amazons, at University Parks, Oxford, until August 11

Creation Theatre Company's second show of the summer is a family-friendly revival of Helen Edmundson's version of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons, originally staged by the Bristol Old Vic. With a score by Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy and directed by Charlotte Conquest, the outdoor environment of Oxford University Parks makes this a unique and special place to see a play located around water.

With a stage constructed so that it overlooks the picturesque lily-laden pond at the top end of the parks, the feel is that of an infinity pool with the duck-filled expanse of water seemingly at the edge of the decking.

This works a treat as in the scene where the amiable Captain Flint (Matthew Wellman), really a writer trying to finish a book and sporting an Errol Flynn moustache, is made to walk the plank by the victorious children after a mock battle on his houseboat. Flint jumps overboard, away from the audience, listening to Joe Dines' sound effect of a mighty splash. It may be an aural illusion, but make-believe is at the heart of most theatre.

It's an old-fashioned story of children's adventures in the summer of 1929, far removed from the Depression or the rise of Fascism. The four Walker children, definitely not contemporary snowflakes but heroic, thrill-seeking types, are encouraged by their mother (Charlotte Worthing, who doubles as one of the Amazon pirate girls) to head off on their boat, The Swallow, to camp on one of the islands in the lake.

The children's father is not holidaying with them, but their mother is determined that he will be told positive stories about their feats and accomplishments. When the bold Titty (Venice Van Semperen) helps the writer recover his stolen typewriter and draft of his book, and when Roger (Andy Owens) learns to swim, the emphasis is firmly on the empowerment of children to dare to be bold.

With parasols thoughtfully distributed because of the heat, Swallows and Amazons is superb entertainment.