We were off to see the Wizard - well, actually the Wizard came to see us in our living room by the magic that is Zoom.The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is this year’s Christmas show by Oxford’s own absolutely splendid Creation Theatre. How does it work? It’s actually a real live online performance - none of this recorded YouTube business - so there’s the thrill of live action but without the journey home in the rain. It’s an amazing feat, especially when you think that a lot of it, rehearsal and performance, must have held been conducted with social distancing or in isolation.
You may remember the L. Frank Baum story: Dorothy leaves home unexpectedly (you could say she’s blown away), lands in Oz, onward-travels through Oz to see the great Wizard, hoping for some help to get back home. En route she meets a Lion, a Scarecrow and a Tin Man, all characters in search of something from the Wizard.
No chance of the North Wall this year, or even the lamented Mirror Tent, but do not worry, for this is a brilliant digital show, fully in the spirit of those Christmas shows of yore. Indeed, it’s largely the same team of talent who are responsible this time. Gari Jones, whose work is always highly regarded, has adapted the story for modern times, as well as directing the show. The writing is very clever: wittily amusing and highly relevant to our modern life. L. Frank Baum would be impressed by Gari’s philosophical reflections given to the characters. The music complements the action and is charmingly original. There are some Pythonesque animations and computer games reminiscences….even 'Mortal Kombat' gets a look-in.
Chloe Lemonius is a feisty Dorothy, here making her professional acting debut, having graduated from the Oxford School of Drama last July. Regular Simon Yadoo, whose work is always a treat, does not disappoint, turning up this time as the cowardly Lion with a lisp. Likewise, Annabelle Terry, very memorable as Gerda in The Snow Queen, shines on the dark side with her interpretation of the Wicked Witch of the West (Boo, Hiss!). She is aided by the Winkies, about 70 wonderful youngsters fresh from Creation Theatre Home Delivery, their weekly online drama workshops. All eight cast members work well together, overcoming the problems of remote performance, so there are no weak links. The Good Witch, Dorothy’s mentor and support is cameoed to the max by Le Gateau Chocolat. She is certainly memorable!
It’s just marvellous to have live theatre, even if it is coming down the Zoom pipe. I enjoyed this very much, at least as much as I enjoyed Creation’s Alice earlier in the year. Their skill at adapting to this sort of platform is developing and improving. It’s a suitable Christmas show for anyone over 7, I should think, but it would be a good ideas to give children new to Oz a brief synopsis in advance. But don’t give away the ending!