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THEATRE: 10 MAY 2015

By GERALDINE WORTHINGTON

The Wizard of Oz, after Frank L Baum | Directed by Adena Jacobs

Belvoir | Belvoir Street Theatre Upstairs, Surry Hills, Sydney | Until 31 May

Belvoir’s Wizard of Oz is an extraordinary journey of devised theatre. It is an accumulation of images that portrays a much darker story than the original Frank L Baum 1900 novel and the 1939 Hollywood movie.

This is not apple-pie American storytelling, this is far more Grimm — a contrast between the American dream and the American nightmare — and as each character is introduced the drama seems to take a darker turn.

Of course, the original novel allowed the characters’ names do direct us towards a symbolic reading of the events and to an extent they are still here — Scarecrow (Melita Jurisic), the Cowardly Lion (Paul Capsis), and Tin Man (Jane Montgomery Griffiths) are all still on a journey to find a heart, the nerve, a brain.  But in this production it is a dystopic journey and Adena Jacob’s creative direction mines all the strangeness that hides in a narrative written originally for children.

Dorothy (Emily Milledge) is still present, dressed in her red shoes, but this is about as traditional as Kate Davis’ innovative costume design gets, and Toto is undoubtedly here, for real, courtesy of Ralph Myers’ pet dog Lucky Jim — a most memorable performance!

THE glass cage is back on stage — in Ralph Myers’ signature set design — and acts as a sort of teleporter for the characters. This, together with Emma Valente’s lighting design and Max Lyandvert’s composition and sound design, does much to create a hybrid and quite mysterious and disturbing mix of the real, the surreal and the bizarre.

There are sequences that have great power and a sort of hypnotic pull, relying as they do on dance and movement to suggest the events. Luisa Hastings Edge doubles as both the Dance Captain and the Witch, and she is excellent in both roles.

This production resists classification. Rather, it is more a creation of dreamlike images that are most elusive. What do they all mean? It just gets stranger and stranger. Is it a distorted hallucination version of a rites-of-passage tale or a collective nightmare? There is no clear conclusion, but I enjoyed it immensely. Word of warning thought. Definitely don’t being the kids. Thumbs Up!

Above: Montgomery Griffiths , Emily Milledge and Melita Jurisic. Images: Brett Boardman

Below: Paul Capsis