Lockdown review: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

This latest digital theatre livestream from Creation Theatre is Dorothy in Oz, but not as you remember her. We first meet her engaging with a social influencer who repeats a meaningless mantra about magic, before obliterating the Wicked Witch in an 80s video game.

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Gari Jones takes the book’s original moral of having everything you need, you just need to look within for it, and applies it to a Dorothy (played by Chloe Lemonius) who isn’t at ease with herself or her image. There’s no Auntie Em or tornado in this world, just a bored girl who has “just learned to tie her own shoelaces” in lockdown.

As this story is so iconic, I enjoyed the nods to the original plot as well as some tongue-in-cheek changes. The Tin Man (Tok Richardson) is a “frozen” computer from the early days of RAM; the munchkins are DIY sockpuppets.

Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Creation Theatre have come along in leaps and bounds since their stream of The Tempest back in April. The filming and direction really pushes at what is possible on Zoom to bring characters into the same frame (as well as acknowledging the tricks and difficulties of working in this way).

Only the cameo from La Gateau Chocolat as the Good Witch is pre-recorded – all other scenes are completely live and at the mercy of technical issues. Happily there were no visible hitches last night and the wide range of characters, sound and visual effects, and pithy commentary made for excellent entertainment.

To progress the journey to Oz the characters have to repeat the carchy refrain “we all need to follow our own brick road”, a positive message for the tweens and teens who may be watching. The scarecrow (Dharmesh Patel) may not have a brain, but he still works out how to defeat enemies of the cause.

Witch and Wickies in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Tin Man thaws and reflects on his own search history to prove he has a heart, while the Cowardly Lion (Simon Yadoo) comes through when required. The group don’t always skip happily together, though: they bicker, they quibble, and only really gel after a scare in the poppy field.

With an at-home Toto (one audience member’s unimpressed cat) and a hint to the flying monkeys “from the twisted mind of L Frank Baum” (aka the book’s author), this Oz has a strong message that “our flaws and fragilities make us human and unique and beautiful”.

Designed by Ryan Dawson Laight, the computer generated backgrounds and animations really support this story, and Annabelle Terry’s over the top Wicked Witch of the West makes an entertaining villain.

The yellow brick road in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

I found the pace slackened a little in act two, where each visitor to the Emerald City consults the wizard, who assumes a different shape for each conversation. Still, there are happy endings all round, and Dorothy gets home in time for tea.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz runs until the 3 January, and tickets can be booked here from £30. There are additional party room options if you want to breakout and chat after the show for four devices or more.

Image credit: Creation Theatre

LouReviews received complimentary access to review The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

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