For the past 22 years, Creation has staged an open-air Shakespeare production every summer. Until now.

2018 marks a historic change, as the predominantly Shakespearian company temporarily abandons the Bard in favour of the future.

Instead, its summer production has jumped forward several centuries with a brand-new adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, set in the Westgate Centre.

“What could be better in this monumental cathedral to consumerism than to stage something spectacular in this exciting new development?” Creation’s Maddy Breen asks.

“So when we were approached by the wonderful team at Westgate Oxford and offered the opportunity to work there, we jumped at the chance.

“This is the kind of project we relish and after much scanning of our bookshelves it became evident there was only one title which would really fit the bill.”

As a result Brave New World is coming out all guns blazing, with an adult age guidance of 14+, nudity and a fair number of references to drug taking. Throw in audio visual projections and audience headphones and you begin to get the picture.

But with Radio 4 writer and director Jonathan Holloway, at the helm, this comes as no surprise.

“We are taking full advantage of the Westgate’s incredible architecture, public spaces, walkways and square footage,” Maddy continues.

“Unlike previous sci-fi adaptations of the book, the show exists firmly in a contemporary setting, so our audience will experience the story wearing wireless headphones across multiple locations within the shopping centre.

“The use of wireless headphones allows us to control the audience experience to an extent: so they won’t be able to hear anything other than the show” says Ginny Graham, Creation’s producer.

“Our Sound Designer Matt Eaton has also introduced a 3D stereo sound sensation for the listener. So it will be a bit like a big silent disco but at the theatre”.

So why are dystopias so popular at the moment?

“We’re living in tumultuous times, and dystopias allow us to explore ideas and fears about the future” Ginny continues.

“Brave New World is particularly interesting because what once seemed like a distant future has now become very apparent. It explores themes of genetic engineering and consumerism, so it’s very exciting to explore on stage.”

With beautifully futuristic costumes, Creation is certainly pushing the boat out, so don’t expect to see its trademark stripy socks and battered suitcases.

“It’s really challenging for a designer to capture an essence of the future in costume design without looking naff, but Ryan Dawson Laight has done a stellar job,” says Ginny.

“We threw around a lot of ideas, from cosplay references to lingerie (this is a sex-filled world after all).

“In the end, the design uses a lot of man-made materials; plastics that give really unusual shapes and textures that are something other than the world we’re familiar with.

“It’s sexy but also sexless and represents a culture of uniformity.”

But surely there is more to their decision to abandon their annual Shakespearian schedule than a new location? After all Creation has staged the Bard’s plays in endless locations around Oxford over the decades?

“In recent years, the number of Shakespeare productions in Oxford each summer has boomed which is fantastic” says Lucy Askew, Chief Executive at Creation.

“Shakespeare is royalty free and offers endless possibilities for re-invention, this makes it fantastic for amateur groups and new companies to cut their teeth on,” she adds diplomatically.

“So while we will definitely be doing more Shakespeare productions in the future, only when we feel the concept, the venue and the audience experience really are something ground breaking that we know the Oxford audience will love,” Lucy promises.

In other words, Oxford is swamped with Shakespeare productions now and audiences have too much choice.

Those of you preferring Creation’s family-friendly productions, have also been catered for, with a new adaption of Swallows and Amazons planned for University Parks, a favourite Creation spot.

“I simply don’t think there is a better story to ignite a spark of adventure, imagination and love of the outdoors in children, and staging this in such a stunning open-air setting is a really exciting prospect,” Lucy adds.

Featuring songs by Neil Hannon, expect a family adventure in true Creation style, full of songs, dastardly pirates and unsinkable friendship.

As for the Shakespearian about face, Lucy is philosophical: “It’s an exciting time for us at Creation with such thought-provoking and interesting shows on the horizon.

“But we wouldn’t have survived these 22 years without adapting and the support of our friends, sponsors, venues and all the people of Oxford. We cannot thank them enough. It is a brave new world that has such people in it.”

Brave New World: July 1 – August 11, Westgate Centre, Oxford.
Swallows and Amazons: July 9 – August 10, University Parks, Oxford
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