The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a story of imagination, friendship and family set in the surreal world of Oz. Creation Theatre have taken this up a notch in this new adaptation directed by Gari Jones, and put this extraordinary world into a retro video game plagued by a wicked witch whose loyal followers keep up with her via the messy and fickle lifestyle of an online influencer.
The Company have fully utilised the online format of this show, and by using green screens and other technology, have created a show which they can present live while maintaining all social distancing guidelines to keep their cast and crew safe. The live format means that improvisation is possible, and the conspicuous absence of Toto allows the company to include some light audience participation so that the show is unique every time it is presented.
The piece begins in black and white, a lovely nod to the Judy Garland musical film, and it is clear that Dorothy (Chloé Lemonius) is very unhappy. Lying on her bed with her toy lion, we soon see that she is being bullied on social media, but finds solace by watching vlogger, wizgirl19 (Annabelle Terry). Lucky for Dorothy, she has her question picked by wizgirl19 to be answered live on air. Unlucky for Dorothy, wizgirl19’s answer is vapid and shallow nonsense.
Disappointed, Dorothy finds herself in a power cut as a storm rages outside. Noticing her hand is now stuck in a retro video game where the Good Witch (Le Gateau Chocolat) is battling with the Bad Witch, she flicks the Bad Witch out of the way, accidentally killing her and receiving her fluffy stilettos as a reward.
A bewildered Dorothy just wants to go home, but the Good Witch and sock puppet Munchkins tell her she can’t just leave, she has to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City where she will find the Great and Terrible Oz, who has the magic to return her home, if that’s where she really wants to go.
Dorothy sets out on her quest, making friends along the way and finding out the true meaning of home and that what she has been looking for has been with her all along.
The retro video game style of the scenery and music contrasts well with the overwhelming presence of social media in the story. The Street Fighter style scenes are a particularly fun element. There are a couple of catchy original songs focussed on self-discovery and finding your own path, which children would easily learn and be able to sing along to.
Other issues of the modern world are looked at with the Scarecrow (Dharmesh Patel) exploring the role of self-fulfilling prophecy and the Tin Man (Tom Richardson) expressing the constant desire to be upgraded to the newest and best technology. Richardson’s monologue about retro computers is a particularly nice touch.
The green tinted glasses from the book, which are often missing from adaptations, are included when we find ourselves in the disturbing Emerald City. The show becomes increasingly surreal after we meet the Wizard of Oz (Annabelle Terry) in person and journey off to battle with the Wicked Witch of the West (Annabelle Terry).
The adaptation very much focuses on the role of social media and online influencers. The iconic “I’m Melting” scene explores the fragility of online fame and Dorothy’s story is refocused on how social media makes you think you want and need things which you don’t. This is a colourful and dreamlike show which has recreated Oz for a modern audience.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is being streamed until 3rd January 2021. Tickets are available here https://www.creationtheatre.co.uk/book-shows/
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 20th December 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★