Those eagle-eyed website watchers, avid e-flyer readers, and our super fans (you know who you are…) may have noticed that this year, we’ve started something new. There are two Blackwell’s shows happening this year, but they’re not made by us (The Faerie Thorn, The Full Bronte respectively).
There’s a piece of new writing exploring Henry VIII, for two nights only in a brand-new venue. We’ve live-streamed a completely new adaptation of Macbeth, with just three cast members, across Facebook, for just three nights. What’s going on?
Over our 21 years of producing theatre in Oxford, we’ve grown steadily more ambitious, like Lady Macbeth, but less murderous. From starting with just one Summer Shakespeare, we’ve slowly added a Christmas show to our yearly repertoire…then a Spring show, then another summer show – fast-forward to 2017 when we have one Spring show, two summer shows and two winter shows (including a London transfer). Oh yes, we’ve definitely grown more ambitious. This growing ambition has been joined by an increased confidence in our abilities as a company to multi-task. Not just in an “I-can-answer-box-office-whilst-designing-a-programme/seating-plan/workshop” sense, but a “we-could-do-all-of-that-plus-ten-other-shows” sense. The devil would struggle to make work for idle hands in the Creation office.
Speaking of offices – if, here at Creation, we owned a physical theatre/a permanent venue, we would definitely host other productions, no doubt about it. We love meeting other theatrically-minded people, we love seeing shows, and we love sharing our passion for storytelling and creativity. Not having a permanent venue has never stopped us embarking on grand plans before, so with that passion for stories and optimism in our hearts, we have started Creation Theatre Presents – a scheme in which we help bring other companies to Oxford and collaborate on new, smaller projects.
Now, with all grand plans, there are several co-conspirators, namely Blackwell’s Bookshop. In 2016, following the success of Doctor Faustus (2011) and Jekyll and Hyde (2013), we launched our six-year partnership with the bookshop, with a five-hander production of King Lear. One key aspect of this partnership is that, whilst we produce one Creation show in Blackwell’s every other year, we alternate them with bringing other, smaller companies in. We can share with them our how-to-create-a-stage-in-a-bookshop abilities, help them move the 120 or so chairs we keep solely for Blackwell’s shows, and do all we can to help them get their work seen by an audience who might not otherwise think about booking.
It’s so exciting being able to share this iconic venue with companies whose work we feel the Creation audience will enjoy and similarly, it’s exciting to be getting new visitors to Creation who come to us through these shows and companies.
We’re also starting to explore the world of new writing, currently still rooted in the world of classic texts and stories. Take Playing the King, for example, our new piece to be performed at The Manor, Weston-on-the-Green. The play explores the lives of five individuals (Thomas Cromwell, Henry Fitzroy, Anne Boleyn, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth Barton) and how Henry VIII affected them. Working alongside Olivia Mace (former Creation actor and facilitator), the cast have created the work through R&D sessions, as they did for the live-stream of Macbeth. This R&D approach is something we very rarely have time to use with our main productions; we’ve been able to explore text and characters in a very different approach than we usually take.
Or take Much Ado About Muffins (yes, you did read that right), a completely free, immersive show taking place for one day this Autumn, celebrating Banbury’s baking history and Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. When else would be we able to let our most creative, outlandish and downright bonkers roam free? That’s the joy of us creating our own smaller shows; we can take risks we simply can’t afford to with our main productions.
This doesn’t mean that we’ve abandoned our main productions. Oh no. If anything, they too are growing more ambitious; in the past year, we’ve tackled more modern texts and technology, transferred a show to London, revolutionised our Christmas seating, and are bringing one most popular Christmas shows outside of Oxford (oh yes, The Wind in the Willows will be in Banbury this Christmas, you heard it here first). We’re just pushing the boundaries of what Creation can do as a company, challenging both ourselves as theatre-makers and our audience as theatre-goers. To be honest, as we’ve been running for over twenty years, if we were unable to take on new projects, we’d feel a bit pathetic and have to hand in our theatre-maker badge.
With all this on our plates, you’d expect us to feel a little apprehensive about the future, especially as we’re still only a permanent team of seven staff members (plus one dog), receive no core funding and currently splitting our office hours over a fair few buildings across the county. Luckily, our ambition is made of sterner stuff, and we’re feeling pretty darn positive about the future – with so many exciting projects coming up, it’s hard not to be. All we ask of you as an audience member is that you share this positivity with us, and that you come and see the shows, whether big or small. We make all of our shows to be experienced by an audience, and for
that we need you.