Monday, 21 December 2020

REVIEW: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Creation Theatre (Online)

Creation Theatre has embraced the digital zoom world that do many of us in the country have found ourselves plunged into during the last nine months of lockdown for work and meeting friends and family as a creative space to innovate and engage with young theatre-makers. It is a new media and a new way to share their work with a wider audience. The latest production is the Wonderful World of Wizard of Oz which runs until the 3rd January and features seventy young actors as the many creatures that Dorothy encounters on her journey. 

On this performance, the audience peaked at 135 including the ten host devices that were starring in or producing the show and despite its running time of over two hours only drifted down to 125 in the second half. It is slightly distracting to have the audience faces in a panel across the top of the screen as the temptation is to look through them to see what they are doing, but at least it gives you the sense of being part of a shared experience even if it is a little bit like watching gogglebox. 

The story of Wizard of Oz is very familiar to us all but Creation Theatre have modernised the presentation in a sort of combination of Jumanji and Ready Player One with Dorothy plunged from her room into her computer screen. The resulting journey has the feel of a hallucinatory trip into a computer game with some Monty Python style graphics. It is technically interesting with green screen, video inserts and graphics stitched effectively together to provide the scene-setting images and support the storytelling.

Dorothy is played by Chloe Leminous in her acting debut and gives a confident clear convincing performance. As she says "this is getting weird" but she perseveres in her search to get home. We first meet Scarecrow (Dharmesh Patel) in search of a brain, then Tinman (Tom Richardson) as a frozen computer with a messed up hard drive and cookies piled up in search of a heart and then a slightly fuzzy Lion (Simon Yadoo) in search of courage and scared of spiders. 

Annabelle Terry doubles up as the West Country Wicked witch (wearing a fascinator with a large W above) and the Wizard ensconced in a computer control room and is supported by Andy Owens as Green and the Flying Monkeys as well as the kids playing viruses, crows, bees, and winkies. In a neat idea, Toto is played by a cat selected from the audience from the home of Langley and Lindsay after a short audition. 

Just like the complete works of Shakespeare performed over Zoom by Robert Myles company "Show must go on" during the last year, Creation Theatre director Cari Jones and designer Ryan Dawson Laight have embraced the technology to innovate a new theatrical form which engages young performers and audiences. It is fascinating and interesting but if anything was overlong to hold attention as well as in a live theatre. However, the enterprise and endeavour is to be applauded and it does at least provide a chance for us all to experience live performance during lockdown and for that we are very grateful.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Online | Price of ticket: £30 per device
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