July 16, 2008

Orwell Gets a Prison Sentence




George Orwell's political satire Animal Farm was adapted as a theatre piece by the British theatre director and playwright Ian Wooldridge. The Creation Theatre Company is the latest establishment to take on the adaptation, with a twist: it is going to be performed in the unique location of the former exercise yard of Oxford Prison.

The Creation Theatre Company is famed for using such extraordinary venues, and has previously performed in a ruined abbey in Canterbury and an island on the River Cherwell. Founded in 1996 by David Parrish, it has seen audience numbers rapidly expand from 3,000 in 1996 to 50,000 in 2006.

Creation's shows are designed to be accessible to everyone from children to long-standing Shakespeare lovers, and this is reflected in its array of previous shows, everything from Hamlet to Through the Looking Glass. The company is also heavily involved with the Oxfordshire community, and has recently undertaken some projects with the Youth Offending Service.

Freelance director Joanna Read, whose previous career highlights include Arthur Miller's Playing for Time, will be at the helm of the new production. This much anticipated performance will, she says, "loosen the boundaries between audience and actor."

The adaptation tells Orwell's story in a fluid way that makes it easy to follow. Read says that Wooldridge's adaptation contains very intimate details, yet also has some epic moments. This marriage of contrasts gives the play variety and diversity - vital ingredients for a successful performance.

Read is also delighted by having such an unusual venue in which to work. She says that it's "a non-conventional space, so the actors' physical relationships are very different from the ones that you get on stage. The atmospheric and evocative location inspires a sinister air that adds to the drama of the production." She jokes: "There are no curtains to bring down if it all goes wrong!"

21 July to 30 August (01865 766266)

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