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Brief Encounter with ... James Erskine of Creation Theatre

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James, many thanks for taking the time out for preparations for Creation Theatre’s spring season. I was wondering if you could tell us a bit about how you came to be working with the The Factory on the two productions this spring?

Collaborating with another theatre company is a first for Creation, though we thrive on plunging into unusual spaces and new partnerships of different kinds. Having encountered The Factory whilst producing at Shakespeare’s Globe I could see a perfect fit between their bold, spontaneous style and Creation's constant nomadic creativity. Like Creation, those that are part of The Factory have a deep love of classic texts coupled with a passion to create something new. Their extraordinary take on Hamlet thrilled London audiences and I wanted Oxford to see it in such an amazing setting. I am particularly excited to be co-producing partners with The Factory for a new production of The Odyssey. The audiences's response to Hamlet has been extraordinary so there's a real sense of anticipation building around how we approach The Odyssey.

How exciting is it to be returning to the Norrington Room – the basement of Blackwell’s Bookshop – a room packed with books and history?

The Norrington Room is an incredible space. If you haven’t already been there, imagine being surrounded by 200,000 books on all subjects under the sun, or should I say directly under Oxford University’s Trinity College Quad. If you know the bookshop, now imagine it with a stage and an audience, with actors literally stalking between the shelves, clambering over books and pacing on the tops of the shelves themselves. Part of the passion of the project for ourselves and for Blackwell's is to redefine the cultural relevance of a bookshop in an online age. Tonight, Hamlet will philosophise literally in the Philosophy section and the audience will be enveloped by the culmination of hundreds of years of academic and literary endeavour.

Now that you have been at the helm of Creation for a few months, how are you settling in to life in the city of Oxford and the vibrant theatrical scene here?

Oxford is so rich in creativity, and so for me it is rich in opportunities for us to collaborate and explore. It is invigorating to be in a city full of people who love theatre, take chances and support the growth of local arts organisations.

This summer is going to be busy with the Jubilee and the Olympics, what plans do Creation have to attract theatregoers away from street parties and their televisions?

TV dramas have nothing on The Merchant of Venice! Betrayal, prejudice, revenge and romance...who needs a TV license when you can watch it all unfold right in front of you?

We'll be returning to one of our most popular summer homes, the rooftop amphitheatre at Said Business School in the heart of Oxford. The director Natalie Abrahami will be setting the production in 1930s Venice. It will draw on that wonderful cinematic imagery of the time and, of course, the action will be played out against the backdrop of the rolling out of fascist ideology across Europe.

And street parties may be fun, but this summer every Sunday is Funday as we change our scheduling to include special Sunday shows. We'll have Family Friendly performances where families are encouraged to bring even their very youngest children, Lazy Sunday mornings with coffee and a bagel included in the ticket price and Fancy Dress matinees where audience members are join in the fun in 1930s era costumes.

I know Creation has a busy programme of workshops for Children – are there plans to develop and expand this in the coming months? What about adult workshops? I know there are many in the city who would be interested!

Of course, the workshops are central to our purpose. All through every school break we offer 5-16 year olds the chance to work with actors and theatre professionals in learning new skills and creating their own shows based on classic literature. This Easter for example, we'll be exploring Aesop's Fables with the 5-7's, whilst the teenagers get to grips learning the true skill and discipline behind the high kicks of stage combat. There's even the chance to stage Hamlet and The Odyssey themselves. In term-time our Drama Clubs in Central Oxford, North Oxford, Headington (and now Abingdon) run all year round. As for adult workshops, for those who are keen, let us know via our website and you never know...

Many thanks and best wishes for the Spring season!


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