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Let Old Man Winter fire your imagination on a magical woodland promenade

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 13, 2013

By Jackie Butler

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The wild creatures of Tehidy have the best seats in the house as Cornwall's Rogue Theatre set the scene for their new Winter Wood extravaganza.

While the company's actors, dancers and musicians busy themselves embellishing the bare beauty of their special corner of the forest at Portreath to create an enchanting, glittery, candle-lit wonderland, I picture squirrels racing each other around tree trunks for a better view.

Or what about those rabbits taking a sneaky peep under the canvas, and the owls nodding together on a branch, like grumpy old Statler and Waldorf in The Muppets?

If you're wondering whether I've flown away with the faeries, the answer is a resounding "Yes"; letting your imagination run riot is actively encouraged by this bohemian ensemble who love to take theatre into the landscape.

"The birds around here probably know us all by name now – we seem to spend half our lives in the woods," says the company's Ollie Oakenshield.

Magical tales of times gone by or yet to come lie at the heart of their unique promenade performances – they host an annual Woodland Summer Ball too, and recently a spooky Halloween experience, not forgetting their spectacular drama King Arthur: The Wild Hunt, and the one that started the Tehidy ball rolling – The Dancer and the Devil in the Woods.

The Winter Wood celebrates all things festive and seasonal, while tapping into our appetites for mystery and surprise. Going way beyond traditional Christmas themes, the company – spearheaded by Ollie and Angelina Boscarelli – lead their audience on a joyful journey, guided through the trees by woodland spirits to Old Man Winter's warm and welcoming theatre tent. Here is a place where you can leave everyday life far behind and fall under the spell of a seasoned storyteller who always has a new tale to share.

"The Winter Wood was a very simple idea when we first started," says Ollie. "Now that more and more people have seen it and enjoyed it, there is a benchmark, so we strive to make every little detail better."

On this occasion there will be a stronger than ever avant garde musical focus with Ben Sutcliffe and Zaid Al-Rikabi from the People's String Foundation, as well as shadow play, free hot chocolate, sparkly face painting and the chance to make your own traditional winter decoration to take home.

Old Man Winter's exotic new story of romance and adventure, Mr Zablionio and the Ice Mermaid, promises to be a special treat, alongside audience favourites from previous years. A character who first surfaced in Rogue's Madame Lucinda's Wonder Show, Mr Zablionio is a travelling man who comes to Cornwall and falls in love with a beautiful mermaid; he tries to follow her into the sea, but is swept back to shore. The only way he can see her again is if he finds a thousand stories to tell. As a very old man he returns to the same spot to wait for her...

The show has made such a strong impression since its debut two years ago that tickets for this month's two-week run are flying out of the box office – more than 3,600 so far.

"It used to be OK for families just to turn up on the day, but we don't want anyone to be disappointed, so please book in advance," says Ollie.

The Winter Wood runs at Tehidy Woods, Portreath until December 30 (not December 18 or Christmas Day) with two or three performances daily. Visit roguetheatre.co.uk/winter-wood or crbo.co.uk. Adventurers should bring a torch, a warm coat and wellies. The path is a bit bumpy but should be fine for a rugged children's buggy.

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