'We're all mad here!' Tim Hughes loves Creation Theatre’s curious Alice in Oxford's University Parks

Creation Theatre have an enviable reputation for breathing new life into classic theatre – reimagining old favourites through their deliciously odd prism.

We’ve seen Shakespeare given a post-apocalyptic treatment, had cannon balls launched at our faces in a high-octane Treasure Island, and been transplanted to the dark world of the Brothers Grimm in an acid-gothic Snow White.

But if any tale is a natural contender for Creation treatment, it is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland - and what a quintessentially Oxford production for the company’s summer season in University Parks.

Learning from past rainy experiences, they have staged the action in a cosy circus big top – but, in true form, we are led to it in a mini promenade, through a Wonderland gateway in a delightfully secluded part of the park – adding to that sense of adventure.

The play is a journey, not only for Alice, but for the audience – who, on my visit, included members of all ages – all equally rapt and all laughing our socks off together. This is a classy production – whip-smart funny, snappy and surreal.

The tent is cosy, seating arranged on hay bales wrapped in blankets. And there’s a bar in an adjacent marquee selling excellent local Tap Social ale.

The big top’s intimacy makes it engaging and it’s impossible not to feel involved in the plight of our heroine in her journey down the rabbit hole.

Some of us were more involved than others – with kids enlisted as flamingoes for a whacky croquet match and this reviewer dragged on stage by the Knight to demonstrate how to bow to the Queen.

Directed superlatively by Helen Tennison, it is beautifully staged by a remarkable cast of just four.

Ryan Duncan is Rabbit, Dormouse, Cheshire Cat and Tweedle Dum, while Nicholas Osmond takes on Pigeon, Hatter, Knight and Tweedle Dee. Both are hilarious and move effortlessly between roles. Their Tweedle Dum and Dee squabble is a particular delight, while Osmand’s pigeon, with wings fashioned from a broken umbrella is supremely silly. His vainglorious Knight is also excellently pompous.

Stephanie Lane is magnificently malevolent as the bonkers Queen of Hearts – gliding around the stage on one roller skate. She also appears as Hare and as a sultry, stoned jazz-age hookah-smoking Caterpillar – complete with Deep South drawl. I defy you not to laugh.

The effects throughout are superb – particularly Alice’s shrinking, growing and neck-stretching.

Indeed it is Alice who, on my visit, took the prize – played, suitably enough, by Alicia Bennett, making her Creation debut as an understudy drafted in with just three hours’ preparation, after regular ‘Alice’ Sophie Greenham fell ill.

She was utterly brilliant – portraying that mix of innocence, incredulity, surprise, sympathy, fear and a sense of the ridiculousness of it all, with the slightest twitch, stare, grimace or a confiding smile with the audience.

Fabulous then from beginning to end – and I’ll be heading back for more.

We have until August 19 to catch it. Don’t be late!