BY John Haswell
THERE is something wonderful about the spectacle that can be achieved with a large number of enthusiastic young performers on stage. Given the right material, their energy can be channelled into producing theatre that is big, bold and potentially electric.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, performed last week at the Garrison Theatre by the Out of School Drama Clubs under the direction of Izzy Swanson, had all the elements to make this happen and the audience loved it.
The storm sequence, the Munchkins, the Crows, the Hypnotic Poppies and the battle with the Wicked Witch of the West all provided opportunities for almost 40 performers to fill the stage with movement and theatrical enjoyment.
Adapted from L. Frank Baum’s novel, the script was more sophisticated than might have been expected. Using Baum himself as a narrator figure creating a play within a play was an interesting, quite adult concept.
At times the level of smug, literary self awareness in the role slowed down the much more accessible parts of the well known story. However, Barnum Smith took on the role with a confidence and theatrical awareness that was admirable and he had a genuine rapport with the audience.
In the main parts Megan Petursdottir (Dorothy), Lauren Boyle (Toto), Finn Gibson (Scarecrow), Judy Priest (Tin Man) and Baillie Smith (Lion) all gave very appealing performances (and some very sweet singing) and were ably supported by the Wizard, the Wicked Witch, Uncle Henry, Aunty Em and the Guardian of the Gate.
Each performer embraced their part totally and brought them to life for the audience. However, it is inevitable that the scenes with individual characters were those with the most dialogue. There was the odd occasion where some the performers could have worked on volume, articulation and the expression of the emotion behind the words, especially as these are the scenes that progress the plot and have less opportunity for theatrical invention.
It was in the large, ensemble scenes that the production really scored. Sensibly, there was virtually no scenery; a hat-stand, a gate and some projection. Huge scene changes would have been an intrusion and with so many actors.
The company were not only entertaining the audience but had been involved in the creative theatrical process as well. This sense of ownership expressed itself through a level of enjoyment on stage that embraced the audience and swept them along with it.
It was a great success.