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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Flutsch

The Alchemist: Creation Theatre

★★★★


Review: The Alchemist, Creation Theatre, in Oxford until 21 October and in London on 27-29 October. Book here.


[Disclosure. I was a Creation Theatre trustee from early 2020 to early 2022. I received free tickets and free drinks for the purposes of this review.]

Creation Theatre is back with its new repertory company production, The Alchemist by Ben Jonson. A satirical and comedic indictment of human greed in all its forms - The Alchemist follows three con artists who take advantage of the greed based credulity of a variety of unattractive characters from all walks of society.

Nicholas Osmond and Herb Cuanlano

Hugely talented actor Anna Tolputt has adapted and directed this production – setting it in 2020 London during a covid lockdown. The original version is set in London during a plague outbreak, so Tolputt’s setting is particularly salient. Tolputt’s production is madcap, bonkers and hilarious; every cast member contributes an outstanding comedic performance.

Nicholas Osmond

Creation Theatre is known for setting its productions in unusual and atmospheric venues and this production is staged at Oxford University’s Maths Institute. With its striking angular design - full of metallic geometric shapes, white walls, and Escher like staircases, the Maths Institute is a great setting for slightly dystopian and caustically satirical stories.

Emily Woodward, Clive Duncan and Claire Redcliffe

By contract, the audience is seated on extremely comfortable couches set around the central performance area. This is probably the most comfortable I’ve ever been at the theatre – and it was eye opening for me how positively physical comfort affects the experience of a production.

Clive Duncan and Emily Woodward

In Creation’s production of The Alchemist, all the benefits of a well-established and run repertory company are on display. Creation is the only theatre company in the UK to have created a rep company – where the actors are employed on full time employment contracts – rather than hiring ad hoc freelancers for each production.

Clive Duncan

This means that the audience gets to see a production where the cast has been working together over a long period of time. This level of deep collaboration shows in various subtle ways including a general ease and smoothness in the delivery of this complicated play. It’s hard to define, but noticeable.


Claire Redcliffe

As with all plays written during the English Renaissance, if you are not already very familiar with the story I would recommend reading a detailed synopsis before attending – you’ll be able to enjoy it straight away without any adjustment lag.

Clive Duncan and Emily Woodward

This wonderful production is another feather in the cap of Creation’s new CEO, Helen Eastman. The press photos provided don't do this colourful production justice - go and see it if you can.

 

If you enjoyed reading my review of this production, you may enjoy reading my reviews of other Creation Theatre productions, which you can find here.

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