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The Wizard of Oz

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four Stars

Imagine a land far away from a home where NIMBYish neighbours attempt to flex the only muscles their wealth will allow by restricting the freedoms of others. Wicked citizens of real life town and country haven’t quite managed to outlaw dog-walking yet, although Camille Marmie’s busy-bodyish Almira Gulch’s attempts to get young Dorothy’s pet pooch Toto put down are in much the same spirit in Gemma Fairlie’s revival of L Frank Baum’s much loved yarn.

Dorothy’s resistance when she runs away with Toto sees her caught up in an actual whirlwind that transports her to a Munchkinland which looks a bit like Pontin’s holiday camp. Setting out along a yellow brick road that resembles an oversize hamster’s wheel in an adventure playground, Dorothy and the friends she acquires en route to meet her apparent saviour are damaged goods. In what at moments looks like a self-help book come to technicolour life, it is Marmie’s slinky Wicked Witch of the West who pulls the strings.

John Kane’s adaptation of the 1939 festive-friendly feature film was originally presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company. His imaginings are led here by a sparky Rachel Flynn as Dorothy, who steps into a seemingly idyllic Emerald City populated by gymnastic trees, flying monkeys and some exquisite Busby Berkeleyesque aerial choreography.

Beyond the cuteness of Toto being played by real life canine Evie in tandem with her four-legged friend Barney, once landing in Oz a puppet doppelgänger takes the lead. PFT’s Young Company, meanwhile, come suited and booted as a kingdom of Munchkins in fine communal voice. There is top support too from Dougie Flowers’ ten-piece band, who play Harold Arlen’s score for E.Y. Harburg’s lyrics with jazztastic gusto in a way that allows Rebecca Howell’s dance numbers to shine.

Crawford Logan’s scatty Wizard is a Boris Johnson-like Trumpian figure who thinks he can con the population into believing in things he can’t deliver. For Dorothy and her disenfranchised sidekicks, the only response left is to click your heels, stand tall and believe in yourself enough to take on whichever world you land in. 

The Herald, November 30th 2018
ends


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