Creation Theatre faces real-life drama

Creation Theatre faces real-life drama

Creation Theatre’s Merchant of Venice in the Old Courtroom, Town Hall. From left, Jonathan Oliver, Leila Crerar, Scott Brooksbank. Picture: OX53762 Denis Kennedy

Creation Theatre rehearsing Aladdin and the Magical Lamp. Picture: Stephen Page

The cast of Macbeth in 1997

Anthony & Cleopatra from 2011

A workshop for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed in 2002 and 2005

Alice in Wonderland in 2000

First published in News thisisoxfordshire: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

OVER its colourful history, Oxford’s Creation Theatre has put on countless productions – but its latest has taken on a bit more significance.

The St Clement’s-based theatre company has found itself in a make-or-break position after a summer of wet weather and low tourist numbers.

Audience numbers to its summer production of The Merchant of Venice were so low that the theatre company now needs to raise £50,000 by March or it will effectively cease to exist. If it doesn’t raise the money its current production of Aladdin and the Magical Lamp could be its last.

This means that while other people have been enjoying the festive season, Creation’s small team of staff has been working hard to keep the company afloat.

Rebecca de la Bedoyere, the theatre company’s development manager, has been with Creation for six years and is optimistic about raising the money.

She said: “At the moment we are speaking to all our supporters. We are very lucky to have so many.

“The people of Oxford have been absolutely magnificent and I don’t think there are many other cities where this would be possible.

“People have been giving us lots of ideas but we are also trying to engage with Oxford’s business community as well. There are very few of us in the office and we are putting on a show at the same time so it’s quite busy, but something like Creation is too important not to exist.”

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As part of the attempts to save the company staffing has been reduced by more than half, with five people doing the jobs of 12.

Work on the current production began last January when a director and a title was agreed on, but with some of Creation’s more unusual venues, work can begin a long time before that.

General manager Katie Catling said: “Putting on a show somewhere like Blackwell’s took us two years so with some spaces it can take quite a long time.

“At the end of the day they have got to sell books not theatre tickets and we have got to work around people’s businesses.

“Rehearsals for this show started in November and last about three weeks. By that time you want to have a set.

“This has become the show which is either going to be the last one we do or the one that saves us. Either way it is going to be a landmark. Everyone is taking on a lot of roles and doing 12-hour days. I’m working on front of house at our shows.”

The figures make for grim reading, with only 9,200 people going to see this summer’s production of The Merchant of Venice whereas, in 2006, around 13,000 people went to Creation’s summer production of the same play.

In the financial year of 2011/12 24,258 people went to see a Creation production compared to 15,000 so far this year.

Creation has already raised nearly £18,000 but is still working hard to raise the remaining cash by Sunday, March 31.

Though Ms de la Bedoyere said that if £30,000 is raised by Sunday it would prevent the company from effectively ceasing to exist, another £20,000 would be needed to help it put on another show. She added that the theatre company was looking into how it could change the way it funds its productions in future, with the possibility of getting sponsors or donors to underwrite their shows.

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