Retail Theatre – quite literally

Conversations with Creation Theatre about using our bookshop as the venue for a play started over two years ago. The vision of David Parrish, Artistic and Executive Producer of Creation, was matched by the ambition of  Zool Verjee, Events and Marketing Manager for Blackwell’s Broad St and a seemingly outrageous idea was brought to fruition. Dozens of others have played substantial roles in getting us to a point where over 9,000 people have enjoyed the play.

As Creation themselves say “You don’t need a theatre building to make great theatre. The magic happens all over Oxford. We seek out places that have never been used for theatre before, and bring them to life.” Their expertise and reassurance that any obstacle could be overcome gave us great faith that we could put on a show six nights a week for the best part of two months despite a bucket load of operational concerns. It has been a triumph, and a remarkably trouble-free triumph at that (a couple of fainting incidents and the loss of power one night aside).

The choice of Dr Faustus was inspired – I can think of no more appropriate play to be performed amongst the philosophy and religion bookshelves in the Norrington Room. Every review that I have seen recognises that the location adds to the experience and Creation have used the space brilliantly with the specially constructed stage being a mere guide to where the actors strutted their stuff. There was agreement from an early stage of discussions between Blackwell’s and Creation that it was important that the audience was reminded that they were in a bookshop throughout the performance.

Feedback from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive – a common theme has been the praise that we have received for trying something different, something ambitious. It has also been apparent that the affection and esteem that Oxford holds for Creation – even in a city as culturally bejeweled as ours, they are truly one of the gems that shine brightest.

And so, on Friday the curtain comes down for the last time (metaphorically because, err there is no curtain). We will miss you Creation, you have been a wonderful company to work with, and I suspect we will see you here again?

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