IF YOU go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise...”, a Jabberwocky in fact, right here in Oxfordshire.

Prepare for the interactive, open-air, family theatre show of a lifetime, all played out in a wood near you.

But don’t worry if you’re not going to the Wilderness festival at Cornbury Park, near Charlbury, this weekend, where Jabberwocky opens, because it will be staying put long after the happy campers have packed up and gone home, ensuring we all get a good crack at it.

After all, when you’ve spent a month setting up a 75-minute show in the woods of the Cornbury estate, you’d want to keep the Jabberwocky experience going as long as possible.

Based on the classic poem by Lewis Carroll, the basic structure of the show leads the audience of 40 into the woods, where they find a young knight and his trusty squire quarrelling in a clearing.

They are on their way to slay the legendary beast the Jabberwocky, but are lacking moral fibre, so enlist the audience to come along on their quest. After all, there is safety in numbers.

Along the way the recruited army will encounter all manner of music, theatre, dance, poetry and illusion and, of course, finally the Jabberwocky itself.

The Jabberwocky will be quite something thanks to acclaimed puppeteer and designer Samuel Wyer (currently working with Marianne Elliot, director of Warhorse, on her highly-anticipated production Elephantom at the National Theatre) and a contribution from acclaimed puppet company Smoking Apples – so expect great things.

And after setting the benchmark for site-specific immersive theatre at Wilderness last year, director Louis Waymouth explains: “We like to take the audience on a theatre trail, so in 2012 embarked on a Grimms’ Fairy Tale-journey through the woods, encountering favourite fairy tales along the way,” selling out along the way as word got out about how brilliant it was.

This year Louis and co-director Anna Boglione, have come back with something even bigger and better, throwing everything he has into it.

“We decided to take the bull by the horns and do a big production, something more ambitious, in this beautiful, setting,” he says, which resulted in the Jabberwocky, a 12ft-tall, five-manned puppet, plus some Lewis Caroll favourites – Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, the White Knight, and a scattering of musicians and acrobats.

“It’s weird, wonderful and magic from start to finish,” Louis promises.

Plus, with six shows a day to look forward to, there should be room for everyone in this interactive experience.

“We didn’t want to make it elitist because lots of people either aren’t coming to Wilderness or couldn’t get tickets, so we hope even when Wilderness ends, people will still come and enjoy Jabberwocky. It’s a wonderful thing for people to experience in the woods.”

And after that?

“Who knows,” Louis shrugs. “Maybe we’ll tour it. But we’ll be back next year as well, with another wacky show, because people really seem to love it.”

  • Jabberwocky can be seen at Wilderness Festival from August 8-11, and then from August 21 to 23. Performances scheduled from August 24 to 27 have been cancelled. Tickets for the second set of performances can be purchased from seetickets.com/go/jabberwocky or call 01865 305305 and from The Theatre in Chipping Norton, at chippingnortontheatre.co.uk or call 01608 642350.