The Wonderful at Theatre Peckham celebrates diversity and spreads festive joy, while staying true to L. Frank Baum’s classic tale.
This reimagining sees Efe and her dog TikTok swept away from Peckham to the Afrofuturistic land of Ozanda by a storm, with lighting and sound used effectively to make this scene immersive.
Ashleigh-Mae Schoburgh-Crooks played the protagonist superbly, delivering her lines with confidence and donning a pair of magical trainers instead of the red slippers synonymous with the 1939 film.
There are plenty of differences like this, with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion replaced by a mannequin, robot and The Mane Man respectively.
However, the message of the story is unchanged, with Efe and her friends undergoing character development on their journey to overthrow the evil witch Aygum.
The characters are all unique which made them memorable, with the street savvy yet timid Mane Man’s use of modern slang earning laughter from the audience.
Manny, flamboyant and fashion-obsessed, yearns for intelligence and is the polar opposite of Cyri who is clever but lacks emotion.
This produces a refreshing story, reminding us that we all have gifts and just need to have the confidence to use them, as the characters find out by the end of their adventure.
Advanced technology and urban culture is blended perfectly with ancient African tradition in Ozanda, a world where inhabitants can take photos using their fingers.
Credit must be given to writer Geoff Aymer and director Suzann McLean for striking this balance, and a diverse cast underpins Theatre Peckham’s celebration of culture.
Both traditional and urban culture were reflected in the variety of music genres that were played.
The cast used song and dance to express their characters, evidenced by Manny’s energetic movements and Cyri’s roboticism which were a treat to watch.
Professional actors were joined by young amateurs taking their first step into the world of theatre, with the performers bouncing off of each other and enjoying their work to exemplify Theatre Peckham’s community ethos.
Puppeteer Sebastian Chambers operated TikTok the dog seamlessly, in a way which was fluid and meant that his presence on stage didn’t feel intrusive.
Bright lights and costumes, particularly those of the evil trees, helped to bring Ozanda to life.
However, minimal props meant it was left up to the viewer’s imagination to flesh out the setting, and it’s a shame that there weren’t more objects onstage.
This is a minor criticism of an otherwise delightful show which is certain to be a hit with the whole family and get you in the mood for Christmas.
Performances of The Wonderful run until 22 December and tickets can be purchased from Theatre Peckham.
Featured image by Lidia Crisafulli