Theatre: Stand by your scarecrow
THE WIZARD OF OZ WATERMILL THEATRE NEWBURY
Tuesday 15 December 1998
Meg Surrey's understated design (a wall-to-wall skyscape, untroubled by the merest hint of tornado-spun Kansas farmstead) can be partly attributed to the Watermill's acting area, which isn't big enough to swing a munchkin in. Doyle's aesthetic carefully sidesteps the movie's more troublesome visual elements. This Dorothy's Oz is remarkably similar to the rural back-of-beyond she has just left. The Wicked Witch of the West is no broomstick- thin harridan but a buxom cowgirl, clad in black from stetson to knee- high boot, with a pair of revolvers slung suggestively around the navel. The Sorceress of the South (very Tammy Wynette) in a white-jean number and a Statue-of-Liberty-style headpiece comes armed with a hicksville drawl and a wholesome smile. The Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion resemble overalled farmhands in half fancy-dress, while the citizens of munchkin- land are, as any child could see, a group of kids in multi-coloured knickerbockers and wigs.
What gives this "Wiz" whiz is the way that the cast all play instruments as they are spun back and forth by a mini-revolve. Every cloud has a silver handle, enabling swift access to cupboards crammed with instruments: as well as a horn and wind section, there's an accordion for the Tin Man (clunkingly good Simon Walter), a banjo for the scarecrow (Jeremy Harrison on floppy form) and a recorder for Katherine Oliver's Dorothy (more tom- boy than Judy Garland). They lend a warm, Country-and-Western tone to Harold Arlen's and Yip Harburg's timeless songs, turning the forest capers into a vigorous hoe-down and ending with a beautiful a capella re-run of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow".
It's a gentle show, for the (very) young at heart: the schoolchildren at the matinee I saw were too busy pretending to choke on the dry ice to be much bothered by the light-bulb contraption intended to signify "the great Oz". The wicked witch's come-uppance, and Dorothy's return home, happen faster than you can say "my pretty". But if the journey is more memorable than the arrival, that has always been the point. It isn't as awesome as the film, but this Wizard of Oz still has plenty of brains, heart and courage. It deserves to blow its own trumpet.
To 16 Jan (01635 46044)
Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Edward Heath 'raped 12 year-old boy at Mayfair flat'
- 2 London is the most googled city in the world
- 3 Porn block in India: hundreds of sexual websites banned, internet outraged
- 4 Giant Minion terrorises drivers in Ireland as 40ft inflatable blocks traffic on Dublin road
- 5 Richard Dawkins ridicules Sabrina Corgatelli for claiming her giraffe kill was 'ethical'
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister, says Ken Clarke