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Tag Archive | "Wizard of Oz"

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Never Properly Born: Do artists have to follow the industry model?

Posted on 17 May 2012 by Never Properly Born

“Is this really what I want to be doing?” As an actor not six months out of drama school, that is the question I was asking myself at the start of this year, although perhaps not for the reasons you might be expecting. I was well prepared for the rigours of the industry. Drama school had force-fed me the image of a Withnail-esqe existence and I was ready for the challenge (lighter fluid and all). I wasn’t thinking about giving up. I was considering the path before me and asking “is this the only route an actor can take?”

Five months ago I was where the majority of young actors find themselves: the road of drama schools, agents, castings, the day job, doing some work and of course eventually superstardom and lots of Dom Perignon. I was tiptoeing along that course and building up the old CV in the hope of impressing some people who apparently could offer me something. I was on a quest for creative fulfilment, but quite frankly I found the industry wanting.

This was around the time that Simon Stephens and others were scrutinising the industry for being too “conservative” and “taking fewer risks” (an argument recently revived by Dan Rebellato). I looked at what I was doing and I couldn’t help but agree. It all seemed so pointless. I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing. I was merely doing work for the sake of doing it and WHY? To appear ‘busy’ to those gatekeepers who supposedly hold all the opportunities.

Instead of squandering my youth trying to please people who need not be pleased I made the decision to go my own way and make things happen. In what feels like no time at all I started my own new writing company – Never Properly Born Theatre Ltd. I stopped going to auditions, dragged some trusted colleagues together and poured all my spare time/resources into the company. We then clarified our ideas and defined an aim:

To manifest the lives of our audience, and ask questions about the world we live in now and where we’re going in the future.

Before we could even walk I approached the Tristan Bates Theatre about staging a new (unwritten) play at their venue. To our collective wonder they said “yes.” As a company, we’re now creating a new piece of writing that explores themes of greed, belonging and security, as well as asking what it means to be young and part of our world in the twenty-first century.

In the future (as early as September) we want to accept unsolicited scripts from young people who have something truthful to say about our place in the world right now. We then intend to develop one script later this year and give it a full professional production.

Essentially this is my plea for young artists to consider the industry we’re in and not to unthinkingly accept the path that’s set out before them, because, let’s be honest, is it really the most artistically rewarding approach? Are we being made reliant on people we shouldn’t be? Do great things really await us if we just stick to the ‘yellow brick road’? Or, as Dorothy and her friends found in Wizard of Oz, is there an inconvenient truth waiting behind the curtain?

It seems relevant to end this blog with a recent quote from Dennis Kelly. In his opening speech at Stückemarkt he said:

“I believe young theatre makers need a very healthy dose of ‘go fuck yourself’. I think it’s useful for a young theatre maker to look at the things they’re being told, to think about them, assess them and then – if necessary – say ‘go fuck yourself.”

In many ways, I took a long look at what the industry model had to offer and after much consideration I decided to say ‘go fuck yourself.’

This is an open invite for you to do the same.

Written by artistic director Ash Rowbin. Shelter, the company’s first production, will be staged at the Tristan Bates Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe from 6-11 August.

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The Wicked Stage: Are movie adaptations the new literary adaptations in musicals?

Posted on 16 April 2012 by Sarah Green

Dubious. A word I would use to describe my views regarding movies that have been turned into musicals. I have always pegged them as a lesser musical, right up there with jukebox musicals as lacking originality. The West End is currently dominated by movie adaptations: Shrek, Ghost, Wizard of Oz, The Lion King, Billy Elliot, Singin’ in The Rain, Top Hat and, until recently, Legally Blonde. I would also argue Matilda gets a large amount of its audience from people of my generation who were obsessed with the film – whilst the stage show may be based on the book, the film has helped guarantee a fraction of its audience.

I seem to constantly find myself re-assessing my views on musicals, which probably goes with the ever-evolving nature of theatre. So recently I asked myself if adapting films is any different to adapting novels. Many of the great shows are based on novels: Phantom of the Opera, Showboat, Oklahoma! and Les Miserables, to name a few. In fact if you look closely, very few musicals are complete originals. Rodgers & Hammerstein only ever wrote one completely original show, Allegro, and it flopped. They earned their keep in the art of adaptation.

Maybe I simply made a low-brow/high-brow judgement and assumed literary adaptions are better on an intellectual level. However, Hammerstein would change the original stories, such as the musical Carousel which is based on the play Liliom. The play ends with Liliom failing in his quest to help his teenage daughter and is presumably sent to hell. In the musical Billy fails but then redeems himself by admitting his love for Julie and makes it to heaven. I can’t help but wonder if we could get away with such deviation in the plot in film adaptations, or if audiences would be disappointed that it isn’t how they saw it on screen. And it isn’t just me being given food for thought and questioning the current trend – Michael Billington of the Guardian wrote an article earlier this year on the effect film has on theatre: “I worry that theatre today is becoming lazily dependent on cinematic content”.

It isn’t just the form I am re-assessing, but also the shows themselves. Ghost – The Musical is based on the film, yet has a completely new score except for ‘Unchained Melody’. I understand why it was used; I can imagine fans of the film demanding refunds because that song is so synonymous with the film for them. The writers of Ghost don’t let it detract from the rest of the score though – songs like ‘With You’ break your heart just like the film, and its modern staging and special effects are also a draw in their own right. It’s this avoidance of using song and music from the films that has made me re-consider my original viewpoint, as many movie adaptations have a completely original score.

For producers, adapting stories we already know has always given a level of security because you already have a guaranteed audience. This is what helps musicals: We Will Rock You was panned by the critics on opening night but audiences loved it for the popular Queen songs. Film and cinema dominate our cultural identity so it makes sense that we would turn to them for stories to turn into musicals and long will it continue. Yet I will always have a slight initial unease about these musicals despite how good the shows are. For me I think Billington sums it up: “I just wish the writers of new musicals would occasionally look beyond Hollywood hits for their inspiration”.

Image credit: Simon Shek

Sarah Green

Sarah Green

Sarah is a musical theatre graduate now studying for her Masters in theatre practice with hopes of going onto a PHD. She has been writing for A Younger Theatre since September 2011 on all things musical theatre related.

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Review: The Wizard of Oz

Posted on 10 March 2011 by Harriet Hale

Whatever else can be said of them, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s casting shows certainly have the power to attract a good audience. Over the Rainbow, the BBC’s search for Dorothy, has nearly seven million views in its final episode, and advance sales for the musical itself peaked at over ten million. They appeal, to use that horrible phrase, to the masses.

Well, the masses may have a point. The Wizard of Oz is in many ways a triumph: visually stunning, its set and costume design (Robert Jones) make Oz vivid and memorable not just against dull, sepia Kansas, but even the real, full-spectrum world. The light-up, rotating yellow brick road and scenery popping up from within it are delightful. In fact, the whole show has a certain excitement, a certain razzle dazzle (helped, I’m sure, by the glamorous Toto cast: Bobby, Dazzle, Topper and Razzmatazz).

Danielle Hope, despite her relative lack of experience, makes a charismatic, believable Dorothy with a good stage presence. Judy Garland is a hard act to follow, but this young actress may yet be remembered as the stage Dorothy. Crawford is a kindly, sincere Mr Marvel, and Hannah Waddingham is deliciously unhinged and cruel as the Wicked Witch of the West.

The only problem with this production is that the script allows for very little character or emotional development. Hope, despite her best efforts, struggles to create pathos with the bland, earnest lines, and all too frequently her entourage are given gags that fall completely flat.

Despite the talent and energy of the actors, and the colour and razzmatazz of the scenery, The Wizard of Oz fails to reach its potential by denying the characters any deeper level of meaning or conflict. Which makes the whole revolving-yellow-brick-road situation, well, a bit like walking in circles.

The Wizard of Oz is currently playing in the West End at the London Palladium. For information and to book tickets see its official website here.

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