BBC Radio 4, 19 December 2009
Forget all memories of Judy Garland in the enduring 1939 film; this was a much darker
version of L. Frank Baum's tale's with the child Dorothy (Amanda Clarkson) being forced to leave her Kansas home and embark
on a voyage through the underworld to meet the Wizard of Oz. I use the term 'underworld' advisedly: many of the perils she
encountered on her way seemed more suitable for science fiction than a children's classic. With an ingenious use of sound-efffects,
director Nadia Molinari made the Munchkins sound rather like aliens, jealously protecting the Wizard (Jonathan Keeble) against
intruders. Dorothy encountered her friends along the way - the Scarecrow (Kevin Eldon) and the Cowardly Lion (Zubin Varla)
- who likewise experienced similar tribulations.
As the action progressed, it gradually became clear that Molinari conceived the story
as an allegory of Americanism; through their struggles, Dorothy and her friends gradually discovered that there was nothing
tangible at the end of the Yellow Brick Road. The Wizard was a small, insignificant man hiding behind his gadgets with "no
real great power" (as he admitted himself), But the journey had not been in vain - as a result of it, everyone discovered
the importance of trusting in oneself. The Lion discovered he could be brave; the Scarecrow could think; the Tin Man found
a heart; and Dorothy realized that she and she alone could find her way home. As the adaptation ended, we were left
wondering whether her trip was nothing more than a journey into the mind, in which all the characters were projections of
those people most closely associated with Dorothy. This impression was cleverly reinforced through doubling and trebling of
roles: Emma Fielding played all four witches (including the Wicked Witch of the West) as well as Aunt Em; Keeble played Uncle
Henry as well asd the Wizard; and Graham Hawley played a Munchkin and a miner working close to Dorothy's house.
Performed with music completely different from that associated with the film, this
adaptation offered a new and intriguing slant on a well-loved work.