Creation Theatre – Performances via Zoom until January 3 2021
Reviewed by Joanne Hodge
There is a certain amount of irony [or an extremely sharp wit] behind Creation Theatre’s Christmas online World of Oz, brought to us in the main by green screen wizardry. You get it?
I have to say, the Hollywood blockbuster film of The Wizard of Oz has been my favourite since childhood. I even have my very own pair of Ruby Slippers [and yes, I know purists will say they should be silver]. I was therefore delighted to be invited to watch this particular version, in a year where “There’s no place like home” has never been more apt.
At just over two hours running time, I did find my attention start to wane at times, but I think was more down to my own concentration rather than a reflection on the cast or crew. Without the fully immersive theatre ‘experience’, and sat in front of a Mac screen, somewhat smaller than TV or cinema, I didn’t feel I was as fully focussed on the action as I should be. Added to the fact that other audience members [reaching a maximum of 135] were visible on my screen at all times, which did cause further distraction.
Gari Jones has done amazing work with the show. It’s never going to be easy to bring together the four main characters whilst they may actually be in four different corners of the earth, but it fitted well.
The book has been adapted for the digital age, and rather than a cyclone, Dorothy – played with a sassy edge by Chloe Lemonius in her Creation Theatre debut – kills the Witch if the East in a computer game, and is then transmitted into the game to continue her adventures. Her dog Toto, was actually portrayed by an audience member’s cat after a very brief audition, which I presume was done to add to the inclusivity of the online experience.
Through the game she encounters the usual suspects; The Good Witch [the FABULOUS Le Gateau Chocolat], Darmesh Patel’s Scarecrow, Simon Yadoo as the Lion, and Tom Richardson’s Tin Man, brought into 2020 as a computer.
Anabelle Terry’s Wicked Witch has a delightful cackle, bringing a pantomime villain-esque style to proceedings, and the shape-shifting Wizard adds a somewhat post-modern edge.
Although I did enjoy the take on the story, with its subtle changes to bring things ‘up-to-date’, I did find the psychedelic graphics and Tetris-style audio somewhat ‘loud’ at times, and at points where the characters broke the fourth wall to address the audience and crew I started to think they were experiencing technical difficulties and something had gone wrong!
Overall, I would recommend this show for anyone looking to virtually escape over the festive period, but be aware, we’re not in Kansas anymore!