The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Macron Stadium, Bolton – ‘engaging and cohesive’
The popularity of L Frank Baum’s fantasy world shows no sign of waning, with at least three Oz adaptations being staged in the North West this festive season alone.
This Octagon version, first seen in 2011 and now expanded to fill a conference space in Bolton Wanderers’ stadium while the theatre is being refurbished, marks itself out by giving the story a uniquely local feel. Early scenes showing Bolton girl Dorothy’s indignation over her auntie’s refusal to buy her a pair of pricey ruby red trainers give the story an accessibly contemporary spin. But this and the fact that Oz only looks marginally different from Dorothy’s home – with Liz Cooke’s set of grey shop fronts illuminated and tilted to reflect the relocation – slightly diminishes the magic. The illusion is hampered further by clearly visible technicians and clunky scene changes.
But Dorothy (a plucky Anne O’Riordan) and her companions are a likeable bunch, with David Heywood standing out as an amusingly word-mangling Scarecrow. And despite the nine credited writers, director Ben Occhipinti maintains an engaging, cohesive tone.
Visually, things are lifted by scenes using the stage’s width to full effect, like the effectively dramatic projections that accompany Sufia Manya’s arrival as the Wicked Witch of the West.