The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Sussex tour

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West Sussex-based TIMT Theatre Company will be going far and wide this spring with their double offering – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum alongside their own version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

As Ethan Taylor, from the company, says, it will be quite some understanding with a company of just four – four on stage for The Wizard of Oz and three on stage and one off (as a musician) for the Austen, the latter show coming under their Hatastrophic Productions banner ie plenty of hat swapping with far too few actors for the number of characters to be portrayed. For Persusaion, the three of them will be creating no fewer than 15 characters.

“We did Pride and Prejudice and we found that Jane Austen lent herself to our Hatastrophic approach and so we thought we would delve deeper into her arsenal. We looked at the story of Persuasion. It's going to be very farcical and great fun but still loyal to the Austen, I promise!”

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Dates include: Fri, May 10 – Persuasion, St Botolph's Church, Botolphs; Tues, May 14 – Persuasion, Danny House, Hurstpierpoint; Tues, May 21 – Persuasion, St Wilfrid's Church, Church Norton; Fri, May 31 – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Nymans, Handcross; Fri, June 14 – Persuasion, Nymans, Handcross; Sun, June 16 – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Tilgate Park, Crawley; Sun, June 23 – Persuasion, Davis Park, Hove.

Ethan Taylor (contributed pic)Ethan Taylor (contributed pic)
Ethan Taylor (contributed pic)

“There will be some days when we're doing both shows but we are mostly alternating depending on which one the venues are wanting. For the Wizard of Oz we are adapting the novel rather than the film. The film is wonderful but there is a lot of stuff that got left out if the film. There are some great subplots that you get in the novel that were not included and that we want to include. There are lot more creatures both friendly and fierce that we will be bringing to life through puppets.”

The subplots that will come as new discoveries to those who don't know the original book include a field of poppies that lulls people to sleep which the cast will need an army of mice to deal with, and there is also a very daring river crossing involving a raft: “All the things that you know will also be there, all the classics like the storm at the start and the Wicked Witch of the West and of course the Wizard.”

Ethan added: “We are definitely going further afield this year. We have increased our circuit and we have booked earlier than ever. It's a real balance catering for new venues which is very flattering but at the same time we have our stalwarts where we have been going for years. It's a balancing act. Really we're based in the SOUTH of England so we do both Sussexes, Kent and Hampshire and Surrey but we are also going to Cambridgeshire and Norfolk and up to the Midlands and over the to the Cotswolds and I think we are doing Devon. We're not doing Yorkshire on this tour but we're going as far as Nottinghamshire. We used to be very Sussex based but we have really expanded.”

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And the expansion come mostly since the pandemic: “It was a terrible time for many people but it was slightly a blessing for us as well because we were the right size in the right place at the right time. Most companies had to shut up shop because they had large overheads and costs but because we were so small we were able during the breaks in the lockdowns to head out on a quick three-week tour or a quick two-week tour. We attracted a lot of venues, and audiences were really grateful to see us, more so than ever. It was a really affirming time. They were just so pleased to see us.”