Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Dorothy in Oz - review

Written by: Rachel Hopping (@roadtorach)

Where did Hop pop?
Waterloo East Theatre, London
Was it top for Hop?

Immersion Theatre’s raucous, hilarious take on James Michael Shoberg’s update of The Wizard of Oz traps our bipolar heroine Dottie (tortured by the otherworldly barks of her dog Toto), in the Ozlin Mental Health Facility.  Subject to illicit experimentation, betrayal, sexual harassment and administrative frustration, she confronts enemies and makes lifelong friends in her quest to find her way home. There’s flashing lights, pounding rock music and much screaming and fighting in this stuffed-to-bursting production, which is in parts hilarious, heartfelt, and totally unnerving.

Waterloo East Theatre delivers yet again as a beautiful, welcoming space to nurture upcoming talent. The venue is lively, friendly and the damp scent and distant rumble of overhead trains reinforce the unearthly delights of Dorothy In Oz. With the versatile space transformed to a simple ‘black box’ theatre, the venue creates a beautifully sparse canvas for the colourful world of Oz to come alive in.

Kirsty Bruce positively sizzles in the title role. Sharp, gutsy and spiky, Dottie smashes her way through Oz, befriending a heroin-addled, goth-rocking ‘Skarekrow’ searching for willpower, an axe-wielding Rusty the tinman with anger issues and a sex-addicted lion who just can’t seem to get his ‘Courage’ back up. It’s filled with sexual innuendo, clever puns, naughty words and even naughtier thoughts, but there’s something about the nonchalant swagger and unashamed punch of Immersion Theatre’s adaption which makes it utterly delightful.

Some moments are eyewatering, and it’s sure to ruffle a few feathers, but overall it’s a tongue-in-cheek rollercoaster of laugh out loud moments and poignant evaluations of trust and friendship. Rob Tofield’s Mr Lyons in particular exerts the perfect blend of utterly repulsive and completely endearing, while ditzy hippy therapist Mrs Goode (played by Rochelle Parry) and hard-as-nails secretary Miss Gates (Lisa Lynn) ham up their brazen stereotypes mercilessly, infectiously exacerbating the lunacy of Oz through clever puns and silly idiom.  

Despite this, the production is not without its flaws. Firstly, the screams and over-zealous nature of the med-addled lab monkeys distracts and usurps the calm, collected authority of Linda Taimre’s Wicked Witch – infuriating in some parts, almost sloppily childish in others. However Swish, Twitch and Grunt’s passion is admirable – it’s just a shame their story gets lost in the howls and grunts of over-egged fight scenes, which border on the ridiculous. Sound itself seems to be an issue for this promising company - Dottie’s words are lost in sequences with the Wizard Dr Oz, whose booming recording cracks over the speakers, while good jokes and clever rhymes are missed under the cacophony of sounds which dominate the production. Some of the writing appears unimaginative and out of place, and there’s a tendency for the production to overspill, almost haphazardly as actors explore their characters.  

For its minor faults, it’s a production whose energy is utterly infectious, laugh-out-loud humourous and has no scruples in its blasé depiction of an alternative Oz. The refreshing step away from social challenge and the emphasis on fun is entirely welcome, and well located. Immersion Theatre has created a highly physical innovative take on a classic story which manages to be both edgy and absurd, and of course, an utterly enjoyable ride into fantasy. 

This production runs until 17 March 2013. 

Follow us on Twitter / Like us on Facebook

No comments: