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Blackwell's Bookshop, Oxford

Bleak House
5.0Overall Score

With its production of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, Oxford’s Creation Theatre has done the impossible; it has presented us with a riveting, luxuriant, and nuaunced telling of an intensely complex, intricate and lengthy classic.

First published in the early 1850s, Charles Dickens’ novel, Bleak House, is centred on a long running Chancery court case called Jarndyce v Jarndyce involving the distribution of a huge fortune to various beneficiaries. The testator has made a number of conflicting wills and so, the case has been drawn out for generations and is mired in complexities.  One character calls the case the “family curse”.

Everything about Creation Theatre’s interpretation of this most beloved of English classics speaks to unpretentious creativity at its best; from the imaginative staging, the sparse, almost non-existent sets, the beautiful music, and, above all, the phenomenal acting.

In this production, 5 actors recreate 24 characters. Quite often when regional theatres double up on parts, there is a clear quality delineation in characterisation between the characters that the actors believe are their main parts and those characters that are not worth hiring a separate actor to play.  This is most emphatically not the case with Creation Theatre’s production. In this production, every single one of the 24 characters is lovingly, carefully and thoughtfully recreated, so that even the smallest non-speaking part has a weighty impact on the story as a whole.

Of particular note was Sophie Jacob’s characterisation of Esther.  In a part where the temptation is to over act, Jacob’s acting was understated, modest and utterly believable.  The level of maturity and confidence required to characterise Esther in this way is even more impressive given that Bleak House is Jacob’s professional stage debut. Sophie Jacob is a star in the making.

Creation Theatre’s production of Bleak House brings together a group of incredibly talented professionals who have brought their A game to the table; it’s a production I can thoroughly recommend.

Housekeeping:  This production is set in Oxford’s Blackwell’s Bookshop; an extraordinary theatre venue that allows theatre goers the luxury of book browsing and wine drinking during interval.  Unfortunately, the original Victorian surrounds makes for tricky navigation for those with mobility issues.  If you have any mobility concerns at all, then I would advise you to book your tickets on the phone through the box office letting Creation Theatre’s staff know – they will make sure you have the right seats and easy access to everything that you need.  Even for those who don’t have mobility issues, the loos are a long old trek up many, many flights of stairs – budget for at least a 10-minute round trip to the loo (i.e. half the interval) – more if, like me, you run out of puff easily.

  • Theatre/Cinema
  • Charles Dickens, adapted by Olivia Mace
  • Director: Deborah Newbold
  • Musical director: Joseph Atkins
  • Cast members are Eleanor House, Joanna Holden, Sophie Jacob, Bart Lambert and Morgan Philpott.
  • Blackwell's Bookshop, Oxford
  • Until 7 March 2020

About The Author

Editorial team & reviewer (UK)

Hailing from Japan, Catherine Flutsch studied philosophy and law in Australia at Sydney University. She moved to the UK to practice law and to soak up the art and culture. After a career in corporate law spanning Sydney, Tokyo and London, Catherine left legal practice and moved to Oxford. During her time as a full-time parent, she developed a portrait painting practice. She subsequently set up a management consultancy firm. Being her own boss means that she has time to indulge her passion for theatre, art and dance. Catherine has a particular love for Shakespeare and a special interest in Shakespeare's historical plays.

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