Writer: Caroline Bird based on the novel by G L Frank Baun
Music: Jeremy Bradfield
Director: Mark Calvert
Designer: Rhys Jarma
Reviewer: Anna Ambelez
The Wizard of Oz, originally an American children’s novel published in 1900, went on to be the perennial favorite, blockbuster film The Yellow Brick Road. This production is adapted from that original story. The entire stage is taken up with a grey set, featuring central curtains and two raised entrances either side. Dorothy (Tessa Parr) is transported to the imaginary land of Oz through a cyclone, with her dog Toto. Upon landing, she accidentally kills the Wicked Witch of the East, who wears magical slippers coveted by her older sister the Wicked Witch of the West (Zoe Lambert), but Dorothy ends up with them and so her journey begins.
All of the traditional characters are here; the Tin Man (Carl Kennedy), Scarecrow (Maria Crocker), the Cowardly Lion (Michael Blair) and Toto is represented by a glove puppet. The setting, loosely resembling an amusement arcade, is practical and as such does not require constant scene changes. Coloured lights around the main space add vibrancy to the production; however more opportunities could be made to utilize the set, such as a greater degree of shadow play to add to a sinister tree scene. Sadly, some of the dialogue is difficult to hear, and, as a result, is shouted without a clarity of diction. The central characters lack any definite characterization, all rather similar and bland, as are their costumes. Lambert as the Wicked Witch of the West is the stand out performer, and the most traditional character. She adds an infectious energy with every entrance, relishing her evilness and living the part. An absolute credit to the production.
The young writer, Bird, is well known in the poetry world having received numerous awards, and this production purports “to tell a story about love, the importance of family and enjoying who you are”, and has a story that appeals to children from the age of seven. The show has the young adults in the audience laughing; however the only real involvement with the audience (apart from the Witch), comes late in the second half when the Lion runs into the auditorium. The vocabulary used is not always assessable to young children, and lines such as “The moral of this story is that all life is a lie” and “Home is an anachronism for hopelessness” are a little depressing for a pantomime.
Overall The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a mixed bag. A unique production with some interesting puppetry, but would benefit from a greater connection to the audience.
Runs until Saturday 2nd January 2016 | Image: Topher McGrillis