The Wizard of Oz

Luke Rajah clicks the heels of Theatrical Escapism

ADC Theatre Mainshow - 7.30pm Tues 10th-Sat 14th November

This is not The Wizard of Oz as you would have ever seen it before. Director Nick Waters has created a dark vision of depression era America, and a heavily stylised, moody, Oz. This is an incredibly ambitious project, not only in terms of the scope (it has a cast of 18 along with a full band) but in terms of Waters' vision. This was a little hit and miss, with some ideas that worked incredibly well, whereas others were taken perhaps a little too far.

The show opened clumsily, with the house lights still up as the actors began – one of many technical errors, which I am sure, will improve as the week goes on. The only really distracting thing was that the sound levels were consistently high and drowned out the actors throughout the production. We open on a tableau of a soup kitchen, people gathering round a garbage can – This isn't a Kansas you'd want to call home.

It doesn't take long before we reach the first song – "Over the Rainbow" – which was, along with all of the music in the show, absolutely stunning. Georgina Hunt makes a fantastic Dorothy, all wide-eyed innocence, and had fantastic energy.

We soon transition to Oz, where Hunt is joined by Robert Jacobs (Scarecrow), who along with some of the rest of the cast has a slight tendency to overdo things, with a little too much hand-wringing going on. Next we meet the Tin man (or woman, in this case), portrayed here as emotionless, and yet highly sexualised, by Sara Boomsma. I loved this, and it was one of many bold decisions in the show that worked well. Jonathan Padley is also well cast as the fabulously camp and cowardly lion. These four are ably assisted by a fantastic chorus, although the acting left a little to be desired at times. Ben Kavanagh clearly has a lot of fun as the wicked witch of the west, and he was one of the funniest things in the show.

There were some odd decisions though. Firstly, half the cast are speaking in American accents, and half English, some of them changing between the two as we move from Kansas to Oz. I was also left wondering why the Tin man and the Lion were dressed as such, while the Scarecrow was just given a tailcoat. In fairness he did have some mop heads for arms, but these were quickly discarded in his first scene.

The difficult things, however, were done well. Toto the dog is a hand puppet, and is managed delightfully. The flying monkey and munchkins were played by actors in black moving puppets and were inspired.

When the titular wizard floats away holding balloons at the end he actually floats up into the air – another wonderful moment. The play is also highly self aware, with references to other parts of the play and popular culture inserted all over the place.

I did feel, however, that having a table stylistically and self-referentially labelled "props table" for most of the Oz section was a bit excessive to say the least.

This, along with possibly the most pretentious bow I have seen in Cambridge at the end of the play, did grate. I also didn't like the yellow brick road – a big block with a painted background that was wheeled on to the stage. The actors looked very uncomfortable on it, not least because it wasn't really big enough for all of them.

On the whole though, this is a highly enjoyable show, and well worth seeing - it was just a shame not to see it quite fulfil its potential.

Luke Rajah

blog comments powered by Disqus

Related Stories

In this section

Across the site

Best of the Rest