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We’re off to see the wizard… the Watermill Wizard of Oz





The Wizard of Oz

at The Watermill, Bagnor

until December 31

Review by ROBIN STRAPP

The Wizard of Oz Pictures: Mark Senior
The Wizard of Oz Pictures: Mark Senior

THE Watermill’s vibrant, refreshing new production of The Wizard of Oz, cleverly adapted by Marietta Kirkbride, from the original book by L Frank Baum, is given a modern lift, filled with family fun.

Our heroine Dot, delightfully played by Annabel Marlow, lives with her hardworking Aunt Em (Angela Caesar) and their dog Toto on a housing estate. Dot is a typical teenager, filled with doubts, questioning her future and seeking adventure.

But when an unexpected tornado hits the estate Dot is transported from her monotone world to a mysterious colourful land, beautifully realised in Sophie Pardon’s spectacular set and costume design, enhanced by Ali Hunter’s imaginative lighting and Anna Short’s creative sound.

The Wizard of Oz - photography Mark Senior
The Wizard of Oz - photography Mark Senior

It’s a land filled with strange creatures, puppet munchkins, the powerful Wizard of Oz and warring witches Glenda (Signe Larsson) and Westly (Angela Caesar).

The cast are all impressive and exceedingly accomplished actor/ musicians, playing Nick Barstow’s spirited score with relish. There are many catchy songs that effectively develop the story.

Dot, on a quest to find Toto, is encouraged to “follow, follow the yellow route on and on and on” – which becomes the earworm theme song.

The Wizard of Oz - photography Mark Senior
The Wizard of Oz - photography Mark Senior

En route, Dot meets Scarrow, touchingly played by Sally Cheng as the scarecrow who wants a brain.

Chris Coxon gives a surly northern interpretation with imposing movement as The Tin Man who wants a heart.

Completing the trio is James Guilford’s superb Lionel, our Lion searching for courage.

The Wizard of Oz - photography Mark Senior
The Wizard of Oz - photography Mark Senior

Their journey finally leads to the Emerald City, but the Wizard’s personal assistant (also played by Signe Larsson) refuses them entry. The only way they will get in is to complete a task to collect the wicked witch’s magical wooden stick.

Challenge successfully completed, they finally get to meet the Wizard, who isn’t all powerful but rather needy.

All the characters have learnt lessons about themselves, having self-belief, friendships and the challenges that they face.

The Wizard of Oz - photography Mark Senior
The Wizard of Oz - photography Mark Senior

Deftly directed by Georgie Staight with striking puppet design by Dan Southwell from his frightening Quadling to his adorable Toto, this is an absolute Christmas treat for all.



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