Charles Essex reviews The Wizard of Oz at The Attic Theatre, Stratford
How do you keep the children entertained in the long school holidays? Answer: tell them they are off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz. This was a marvellous production, with a real Toto the dog.
Tread the Boards Theatre Company specialises in minimal scenery but employed some excellent props to great effect including lively puppetry. The clever depiction of the tornado that whisked wide-eyed ingénue Dorothy, the excellent Matilda Bott, to Munchkinland was just one of the many clever devices used which delighted the audience. John-Robert Partridge was first-rate as the scarecrow, and behind the scenes as director he had brought in some very clever updates to the dialogue so the play appealed to the young and not-so-young in the audience. There were many humorous moments and much to please both adults and children.
The main characters sang well both collectively and in their solos. Credit is due to Elliott Wallis for introducing some ingenious new songs that were not in the Judy Garland original but the play was enriched by them.
This was an excellent introduction to theatre for children. There are matinee and late afternoon performances and the children in the audience were engrossed in the action and clearly loved every minute. The proximity of the audience to the stage in the Attic Theatre enhanced the experience, and the actors made the wonderful gesture of returning afterwards so the children in the audience could have their pictures taken with Dorothy, the Wicked Witch, and the other characters. To describe it as pantomime in the summer would underestimate the quality and intelligence of this production.
* The play runs until August 27. Visit theattictheatre.co.uk/the-wizard-of-oz for details.