This world premiere adaption of 'The Wizard Of Oz' will take us on a memorable trip down the yellow brick road, but it's not the yellow brick road that you might remember.
“It's funny, every time I tell someone that I am in 'The Wizard Of Oz' they're like 'oh I love that movie, I love that story’, and I'm like 'yeaaah but it's not as you know it — this [performance] is an investigation into the dream of 'The Wizard Of Oz', the memory of 'The Wizard Of Oz'.”
Polly Sara, who plays the Wicked Witch, warns audiences that this adaption of the original is anything but traditional.
"How do we compete with what is a very famous and well-known story, movie, and musical? No matter if you've seen it or not, I feel like the story is filtered into our consciousness."
This is a co-production between La Boîte, Brisbane Festival and the Danger Ensemble. They have worked closely together to create a performance which explores the modern memory of a traditional story. Narratives such as 'The Wizard Of Oz' are "an avenue for [people] to believe in the fantastical … it facilitates a way of dreaming … there is a collective dreaming, a cultural dreaming which is what I think [our adaption] 'Oz' is … it's a conscious investigation, a [live] argument or conversation with the story itself," Polly exclaims.
Director, Steven Mitchell Wright describes the performance as a “fantastical world of couture-clad witches and bondage-bound munchkins, in a land where high-fashion-visual-art-show-meets-Australiana in an explosion of glitter, glory, and goddamn rainbows".
The fundamental themes of 'Oz' are certainly drawn from L. Frank Baum's original novel and the famous 1939 film (starring Judy Garland). The difference is Wright depicts the story of 'Judy G', an Aussie 'diva who dreams of being lifted up and out of her caravan park to be reunited with her beloved Oz', rather than Kansas-local Dorothy who gets sucked up into a tornado and is then dispersed into the magical land of Oz.
When asked to put the Danger Ensemble's adaption of 'The Wizard Of OZ' into a genre, Polly laughs. "I couldn't! I think that's something that I find interesting about the Danger Ensemble's [performances] … Is it theatre? Is it performance? Is it something else? I find that exciting because it means that it's not just sticking to form … we're inventing and we're reinventing different forms.”
If one thing is for sure, there is a comedic aspect to the performance.
“We're not necessarily or obviously going 'this is the moment where the people will laugh'. But I think [that because] we're dealing with a story that was made in the early 1900s, and the film which was produced in the '30s — you watch the movie, and it's hilarious — it's hilarious because it's outdated."
'The Wizard Of Oz' was solely created for the Brisbane Festival, and has never been performed before.
“This show is bound to be the standout of this year's Brisbane Festival,” La Boîte Artistic Director David Berthold praises.
The cast is feeling the pressure, but not because of the show's high expectations. Instead, Polly explains that "as a performer, you're always feeling pressure and … that's because the vision and the dream is so big that it's less about presenting it at the festival but more about wanting to do justice to the work. I know where we are headed and I just want to get there. But pressure is good because it means you care about the work.”
Polly is also keen to get the show on the stage.
"I'm really excited to present this work and to see what the audience has to bring to the work as well. You need the audience to be there and to have the last and most important voice in the work. So that's what I'm itching for — to have their voice be part of our work as well.
“But until then, it's heads down and bums up.”
'The Wizard Of Oz' hits La Boite's Roundhouse Theatre from Sep 7 to 28 as part of Brisbane Festival.