WE are truly spoilt for choice in Oxford when it comes to Shakespeare. Indeed there have been so many productions going on over the summer – from those at Oxford Castle to the Bodleian Quad – that some theatre companies, including the Oxford Shakespeare Company, no less, have ditched the Bard’s tales entirely.

So it is a brave thing indeed for another company to muscle in. But then, this interloper is probably unlike anything you’ve seen the likes of.

Rising from the lawns beside Blenheim Palace is a full-scale reproduction of an Elizabethan playhouse – the Rose Theatre – and it is the setting for a rolling programme of four of the Bard’s finest: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo & Juliet, Richard III and, spectacularly, Macbeth.

The theatre – the height of three double decker buses – is worth the trip to Woodstock alone. Authentically it features a large standing area which is also great, in this weather, for sitting, reclining or, for a few brave souls, leaning up against the stage.

The fourth wall thoroughly smashed, actors address lines at audience members and occasionally move among them. The sense of immersion, of being a part of this living, breathing thing, is complete.

READ MORE: How well does the Rose Theatre handle A Midsummer Night's Dream?

Macbeth is a rollicking tale with a straightforward plot which continues to be relevant. In keeping with the faux 400 year-old surroundings, the Rose Theatre resists any temptation to update the staging or context, other than some distinctly odd, and fairly pointless, gender-blind casting (a male witch, for example). Instead it sticks faithfully to the original, which needs no embellishment.

It’s a vicious tale and the production is loud and visceral. Fight scenes spill off the stage and the larger than life heroes and villains fill the space with deliciously overwrought emotion, expressions of their inner torment, Machiavellian scheming and gory violence.

The Scottish play is a murderous tale and this is a bloody production. Literally. Killings are accompanied by gallons of stage blood, which alternately splutters from wounds and mouths or dramatically spurts across the stage to gasps and groans from the rapt audience.

The experience, with the intimate setting and dramatic staging, draws one in so that you feel part of the story; more a ‘happening’ than just a play.

In short, you’ll love it. Whether a Shakesepeare scholar or a complete novice to the Bard's oeuvre, it’s huge fun.

This is theatre as it is meant to be: in your face! 4/5


* This article has been amended to correctly point out there are, in fact, four shows at Shakespeare's Rose Theatre this summer. Thanks to the eagle-eyed reader who pointed that out.