When a show finishes, curtain call ends and house lights come up, it isn’t often that you just sit and stare into the now empty stage, but it takes time to adjust to the ‘real’ world after Belvoir’s The Wizard of Oz. The show traps you in an allegorical yet eerily contemporary fantasy world that’s evocative, edge-of-your-seat intriguing, and a touch magical.
What’s the show about? That’s a highly subjective question. All our favourite characters are present, but the show bears little literal resemblance to the much-loved children’s classic. Instead we see a literal thematic exploration of the coming-of-age-lost-in-the-wilderness tale.
The Wizard of Oz uses striking imagery, spooky soundscapes, mangled body work and the occasional spoken or sung phrase to story tell. It challenges the audience to ‘read’ with their entire sensual being; there’s no snack time telly entertainment here. It’s a delightful workout for the audience that bears resemblance to the genius of Robert Wilson’s experimental theatre and delicious quirk of the European avant-garde.
The entire creative team is to be applauded: from Adena Jacobs’ masterful directorial vision to Max Lyandvert’s eerie compositions and sound design to Ralph Myer’s concrete fortress-meets-torture-chamber set design to Emma Valente’s thrilling lighting design and Kate Davis’ stomach-churning costume design.
Then we have the skilled cast and the charm of seeing 100-year-old Eileen Kramer on-stage for the final moments of the show. Paul Capsis is a standout from the moment he runs onstage as the cowardly lion. Capsis is electric-charged with energy that surges out of his pores and hypnotizes the audience. Alongside Capsis, Luisa Hastings Edge is a powerful, scene-stealing presence, and the sensuality of her Witch’s seduction of Dorothy is palpitating. Melita Jurisic’s physical characterisation as the scarecrow is also impressive.
For a company that has as much hits as it has misses, it’s comforting to know that Belvoir is continually pushing boundaries and producing challenging, evocative theatre. There’s no safety net for this theatre company and that’s exactly why audiences will continue coming show after show after show.
The Wizard of Oz awakens the subconscious, sensual being and leaves a lasting imprint – a glorious feat by Belvoir that comes highly recommended for a whacky, off-centre but absolutely thrilling night out.
The Wizard of Oz
Belvoir Theatre, 25 Belvoir Street, Surry Hills
Season continues to 31 May 2015
Bookings: or online at: www.belvoir.com.au
For more information, visit: www.belvoir.com.au for details.
Image: The Wizard of Oz – photo by Brett Boardman
Review: Maryann Wright
Maryann Wright is a performer and writer. She has a Diploma of Musical Theatre from Brent Street and a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) from The University of Sydney. Recent performance credits include Subject To Change, Heart of a Dog (Australian premiere), Carrie (Squabbalogic) and Urinetown (Brent Street). Journalism credits include The Guardian, news.com.au and Girlfriend Magazine. www.maryannwright.com.au