The Wizard Of Oz

Belvoir's latest opens strongly but descends down a path that's just a little too obscure.
The Wizard Of Oz

Paul Capsis in Belvoir's The Wizard of Oz. Photo by Brett Boardman

Attendees of Belvoir's latest production, The Wizard Of Oz, have already been warned that it's not for children before they enter its nightmarish realm. A product of Adena Jacobs and all of the involved designers and performers, it is a mish-mash of dark acts and dreamlike sequences, illustrating how Kansas isn't quite the place of happiness we may have once been led to believe.

The show opens in darkness, with fast lighting changes revealing firstly Toto the dog in a glass box, then illuminating Dorothy's face as she peers through a cut window. Obviously desperate to get in, she finds a way through the glass door and proceeds to meet a dead witch, whose shoes she takes. Similar to the fairytale The Red Shoes, these shoes seem to lead our Dorothy more down into a horror show than a yellow brick road. As the plot veers towards that of the original story, she meets the maniacally laughing Scarecrow, followed by Tin Man and the Lion. All four characters are lost in their own way, as they embark on a journey which will prove their goals aren't entirely well matched. Against the backdrop of a beautifully haunting soundscape by Max Lyandvert, Dorothy stumbles along her path, entranced by the red faced witch she meets and horrified by the actions of some of her new found 'friends.'

Emily Milledge portrays Dorothy appropriately as a lost girl who finds herself in a hellish place, helped by some sparkling performances by the rest of the cast. There's always space for more of Paul Capsis, whose talent is under-utilised here. The characters have a lot to play with, with allusions to themes such as mental health issues, belonging and sexual assault.

Ralph Myer's set calls to mind an Ingmar Bergman film, while Kate Davis' costume designs are cutting edge. The lighting, designed by Emma Valente, uses tricks such as quick cuts between characters and harsh tones to highlight the fragmented state of Dorothy's experience.

Fragmented may be the word that best describes this play. The Wizard of Oz is a compelling and clever dark fairytale retelling which opens strongly but descends down a path that's just a little too obscure for some.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Wizard of Oz
After L Frank Baum
Directed by Adena Jacobs
Set Designer: Ralph Myers
Costume Designer: Kate Davis
Lighting Designer: Emma Valente
Composer & Sound Designer: Max Lyandvert
Dance Captain: Luisa Hastings Edge
Director's Attachment: Stephanie Dimitriou
Costume Design Secondment: Tyler Hawkins
Sound Design Secondment: Katelyn Shaw
Rehearsal Observer: John McCallum
With: Paul Capsis, Luisa Hastings Edge, Melita Jurisic, Eileen Kramer, Emily Milledge, Jane Montgomery Griffiths.

Upstairs Theatre, Belvoir
2-31 May

Suzanne Rath

Monday 11 May, 2015

About the author

Suzanne is a Sydney based writer, producer and co- founder of Idle Wrath Films. She tweets as @Suzowriting