The Wizard of Oz, Royal Festival Hall, London
Thursday 31 July 2008
Well, it's "Ha, ha, ha. Ho, ho, ho – and a couple of tra-la-las" for Christmas seems to have come early to the South Bank in the shape of Jude Kelly's production of The Wizard of Oz. The timing is a tad bizarre – rather as though a TV channel were to schedule It's a Wonderful Life on August Bank Holiday. But sometimes the out-of-season can be a welcome wonder: just think of that magical fall of snow on the sunny field of poppies that awakens Dorothy and her chums and saves them from the Wicked Witch.
Not here, though, alas. In parts, this show is more a case of "Ho, ho, hum. Tut, tut, tut – and a couple of boo-hoo-hoos". The problems arise partly because of the venue. The Royal Festival Hall was never meant for theatre and Kelly fails to rise to the challenge of that vast unbounded space; her production feels perversely poky. It's ironic that a piece about how you have to go far afield in order to truly learn that home is best seems to be taking place in Dorothy's back yard.
If this is supposed to be making some paradoxical point, the constriction is not worth it. There was derisive laughter when Dorothy exclaimed at the wonder of Emerald City, because it was just a puny green squiggle on a screen. It's a peculiar business because when Kelly directed the piece before at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, her production generated a sense of magic with dazzling use of CGI animatronics, puppetry, and videos projected on to glass.
In that show, though, the actors seemed trapped inside the technology. Here, we have more direct contact with the characters and there are some charming moments. When oiled, Adam Cooper's Tin Man dances a witty horn-pipe of liberation and Gary Wilmot is endearing as the Lion. The orchestra brings real punch to the droll perkiness of the score and sumptuousness to its melancholy.
Sian Brooke gives a creditable performance, though her Dorothy is too self-possessed. When she sings "Over the Rainbow", there's little of the yearning that makes you fall in love with Judy Garland during her rendition. And the production makes no jesting reference to Wicked (the other Oz show now in London), probably because no one can bear to think of its astronomically bigger budget.
To 31 August (0871 663 2500)
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 2 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 3 Thank heavens for Louise Mensch and her foul-mouthed tweets to world leaders
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
Ed Sheeran texts Noel Gallagher to offer him tickets after that Wembley Stadium rant
Blink-182 split: Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful' say Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus
Emma Watson to play Belle in Beauty and the Beast
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Sam Smith is now paying Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne royalties for 'Stay With Me'
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia