Imagine the Wizard of Oz meets Black Panther, set in Peckham and Ozanda, where ruby slippers are swapped for silver ‘kicks’
Directed by Suzann McLean, Theatre Peckham’s festive musical gives the message of overcoming adversity, being brave, and believing in yourself. Written during the middle of the pandemic, and at the rise of the BLM movement, McLean’s energetic show proves the power of community spirit as well as your own strength when putting your mind to something!
Fusing Afrofuturism – the combination of sci-fi, fantasy, magic realism, and ancient African tradition – with the modern day, The Wonderful blends magic and harsh realities into a comedic and entertaining performance which pulls on audience heartstrings.
Theatre Peckham’s Young Academy make up most of the cast. Their refreshing energy makes for easy watching, especially young Alexander Joseph who plays Senobi, his confidence and innocent wit draws the audience in.
Efe, played by Ashleigh-Mae Schoburgh-Crooks, is the modern-day Dorothy, a young Black girl who, with her dog TikTok, gets swept away from Peckham Road to the magical land of Ozanda. Efe must guide her way through this distant terrain, proving that she has the capability to find her place in this scary and often unfamiliar world.
Like Dorothy, Efe befriends a modernised trio on her journey, each who has their own insecurities with the world. Firstly, Manne-Quin, played by Billy Lynch, who wants to be more intelligent however is constantly distracted by their passion for fashion. Mane Man, a lion, exposes the pressures faced by many young Black men, exploring motivation and masculinity. The final member of Efe’s gang is Cyri, a real-life Siri cyborg, played by Amy Bianchi, whose mechanical honesty and initial inability to feel human emotion contributes yet another hilarious concept. Yet, simultaneously Cyri’s character raises questions of identity and the threat of ever-evolving technology.
Keeping the show relevant and audience gripped, McLean along with writers Geoff Aymer, Jordan Xavier, Katrina Russell-Adams and Nick Bowers-Broadbent include many witty references to the modern-day, recognisable to all ages. Prioritising not missing “a new episode of The Real Housewives of Ozanda”, and Mane Man’s one liners such as “Bruv, you ain’t putting flowers in my hair, bun dat”, or when he states a genius scientific fact much to the surprise of both audience and cast, he finishes with “what?! Roadmyan can’t have knowledge?” The lively show resonates with people from all backgrounds, highlighting acceptance and individuality, and bringing all together at Christmas.
Efe reiterates the need for self-belief, finishing the performance with
“I am a Queen I am fierce,
Everything I want I can be,
Everything that I need is in me.”
Theatre Peckham sits on the border between Peckham and Camberwell and therefore the story reflects and celebrates the rich cultural intersectionality of its community. The production aims to inspire children and young people so they can see that theatre is inclusive and that they can reach their ambition to perform on a professional stage.
Runs until 22nd December 2021
For more information click here.
By Phoebe Fraser