THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
a new adaptation by Anna Clarkson, Julia Hogan, Chris Loyle, Terry Hughes, Mark Murphy, Eve Steele, Jill Stephenson, Jennifer Tuckett based on the book by L Frank Baum.
Octagon Theatre Howell Croft South BL1 1SB To14 January 2012.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.
TICKETS: 01204 520661.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 November.
Oz without the rainbow; and not a sign of Kansas.
It’s often happened; parents think their children are safely occupied, only later finding out things have been different. Don’t get alarmed, but so it could be here. School parties will lead to interesting conversations in the evenings at home, with questions about how they liked it – all those lovely songs, not being in Kansas, Toto, Judy Garland-like Dorothy singing over the rainbow, quaint dancing steps along the yellow brick road.
Then the puzzled response to answers about Bolton Market, and the red boots. And Dorothy being so desperate for trainers, and to get away from her aunt and lavatory-cleaner Uncle. And the Wizard from Wigan, and which town has the better football (or rugby) team, and the rapping mice, and -. But, by now, it’ll be time for tea.
Clearly this isn’t a conventional MGM retread, though the 1939 film contributed the idea of using a writing team – eight, who relocate the story amid youthful discontent and family poverty in modern Bolton. Sweeping away the enchantment of distant time and place, this Dorothy is plain frustrated youth, her discovery of friendship with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and cowardly Lion creating a community that could easily have had her staying-on in Oz.
But she realises she wants familiar family faces, while her love for Toto- the furry puppet dog never leaves her arm unless it’s to further the plot – becomes a conduit of affection to others, summed-up in how she finally disposes of the boots.
There are some perfunctory moments, as though a point’s been made without much interest; at other times humour can be clumsy. And the songs, always vigorous, have little of the appeal of most from 1939. That’s another reason it’s best to go without preconceptions. The cast, Elizabeth Newman’s production, with its plentiful trotting around the auditorium and incidental comic details, and Ciaran Bagnall’s lighting which colours grey Bolton into bright Oz (helped by portable elements of Elizabeth Wright’s set) support a hard-working cast around Ellie Paskell’s sterling Dorothy, a modern girl becoming a woman, finding resources within herself as much as do her temporary Oz compatriots,
Scarecrow/Ensemble: Paul-Ryan Carberry.
Wicked Witch of the West/Jade/Ensemble: Clara Darcy.
Tin Man/Ensemble: Lee Drage.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz/Uncle Henry/Ensemble: Thomas Eyre.
Lion/Ensemble: Lloyd Gorman.
Dorothy: Ellie Paskell.
Aunt Em/Good Witch of the North/Queen of the Mice/Ensemble: Ruth Alexander Rubin.
Director/Dramaturg: Elizabeth Newman.
Designer: Elizabeth Wright.
Lighting: Ciaran Bagnall.
Sound: Andy Smith.
Composer/Musical Director: Barbara Hockaday.
Movement: Lesley Hutchison.
Assistant director: Lauren Hamilton.
Munchkins etc: Jessica Barlow, Amy Hardman, Megan Heyes, Declan McCluskey, Francesca Marks, Rosa Mather/Lucy Daniels, Melissa Deacon, Rebecca Leach, Olivia Lowe, Xavier Schuller, Emily Shenton.