Muddy reviews: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Creation Theatre's latest immersive online production is an intense kaleidoscope of witty social observation and lockdown reflections. We Zoomed in to the pixelated tornado to encounter a strange new world.
If your relationship with techy stuff hasn’t shifted up a considerable notch in the last 12 months then I can only assume you were Elon Musk to begin with, so it’s no surprise that the performing arts have had to pivot and embrace this newfangled online interaction in order to survive. Creation Theatre‘s latest live Zoom production The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a colourful bombardment of self-reflexive commentary on our newly digital selves, not just in 2020 but in the brave new world of serotonin-inducing social media likes and subscribes.
The basic story stays more or less as Frank L. Baum intended with Dorothy, played by Chloe Lemonius, being whisked away from her formerly dull and uninspiring lockdown world (we can soo relate) into a scary new adventure that eventually leads to a greater level of self-awareness. However, in a typical pivot away from expectations, Creation have shifted away from 1900 Kansas to 2020 Britain, where teenaged girls inhabit an online world in which followers and following define the individual’s sense of self and home.
There may well be no place like home, but what even is home anymore when some of our most significant interactions happen through our screens? For instance, when Dorothy inadvertently and without ceremony kills the Wicked Witch of the East in a computer game and is transported to a digitised Oz.
We view the action entirely over the Zoom platform, but it’s not as you know it, with startling 80s Spectrum style computer graphics immersing us in the terrifying world of Oz, the munchkins and the the good witch, played by drag icon Le Gateau Chocolat. There’s a distinctly uncanny and un-homely element to the production as Dorothy and friends make their way along the yellow pixelated brick road. The characters have to question the nature of truth and reality; good and evil. Graphics are used in a disorienting way, and I can’t help but think there’s something absurdly Beckettian about the whole thing, even down to the stilted teenage dialect.
In typical 2020 teenager style, Dorothy doesn’t appear either impressed or intimidated by anything she encounters on her journey and it seems to empower her with an indomitable self-belief and the ability to see herself as limitless, which really encapsulates the overriding theme that our only limits are those we place upon ourselves and that our ultimate power lies within if we can only tap into it, in particular our ability to empathise and connect with others. A wise takeaway from a year in which we have all been tested in unexpected ways.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz continues until 3 Jan 2021.