Reviewed September 10, 2009
I haven’t read Greg Maguire’s book, but as a stand along piece of entertainment, Wicked the musical has all the great themes and issues that every ten year old punter should be getting along to see: friendship, loyalty, ethics, romance, and the effects of bad parents on good children – all laced with sharp humour, and packaged in candy-tastic toffee-apple-edible sets in green and scarlet hues, with shiny-happy-sparkly accessories.
Galinda (Lucy Durack) and Elphaba (Amanda Harrison) meet in Wizard School, where their instant dislike develops in mutual appreciation. Elphaba is bookish and socially awkward, while Galinda is pretty, popular and opportunistic.
As they rise in the world, fuelled by their very different talents, they respond the harsh realities of life in Oz in increasingly divergent ways: Elphaba values truth and equality, while Glinda values job-security. However, when Elphaba “the Wicked Witch” is cast out, vilified by the government of Oz, her friend finds herself oddly compelled by loyalty.
Wicked exemplifies Churchill’s axiom that “history is written by the victors”. Maguire’s novel presented an alternative history for L. Frank Baum‘s Land of Oz and its characters, pre-Dorothy, in which Glinda is actually a smug, self-rightous, spoilt and selfish bitch, and the “Wicked Witch of the West” is a socialist hero, fighting for equality and the end of Oz’s media-politico empire. But only we, the audience, are privy to the fabrication, while the rest of Oz lives on in blissful ignorance.
Although the key political principles are clear throughout, the musical eschews subversion in favour of the personal angle. Audiences can dump whatever framework they like on top of that – sexism, racism, socialism, historical allegory, modern-day politics – but the emotional content stands alone, and the two leading ladies are so appealing in their respective roles that you feel indignant when their characters are misunderstood by those around them.
In particular, Durack puts the wicked in Wicked, stealing scene after scene as the high-pitched and popular blonde brat with all the best clothes – and all the best lines – who keeps getting away with murder. So at the end, when Elphaba disappears into an alternative reality with her Prince, and Glinda the “Good” is left to rule over Oz with her historical-revisionist-magic wand, you feel like it’s all worked out for the best.
The Old Fitzroy Theatre
One Long Night In The Land Of Nod
Reviewed on September 10, 2009
[Runs till October 3, 2009]
The minute one long night begins, the tension and suspense of the storyline is apparent. Giving the audience a taste of the darker side of country life, as well as family secrets and feuds, this gripping and at times confronting play explores a number of dark and macabre themes that we can all relate to.
The plot centres around two brothers who are loosely portrayed as a modern day Cain and Abel. Kane (Chris Pitman), a city lawyer, returns to the family property after a ten year hiatus to not only visit his resentful sibling, Aaron (Patrick Graham) but to also see his dying father. However, on arrival back to the family farm Kane believes is ‘cursed’, he discovers that not everything is as it seems and that the life he’d been trying to forget was impossible to escape.
With peppery and intense dialogue, one long night in the land of Nod, directed by Iain Sinclair, takes you on a journey into the dark and sometimes disturbing lives of the two brothers and their bitterness and greed over the family inheritance. With the air dripping with tension and anticipation, the strong themes of isolation, abandonment and depression only heighten the intense atmosphere and draw you into the minds of the depressed and slightly manic Aaron and the desperate and anxious Kane.
Through a combination of outstanding and well-executed performances, as well as a disturbing, yet intriguing storyline, one long night will have you holding your breath in suspense until the very end. In fact, it’s one of those plays that will haunt you long after the lights have come back on.