The ticket-holders, citizens of the Emerald City in the Land of Oz, are divided into two factions. The participants become the ten tributes, who must submit to a series of trials in order to determine who is the most worthy amongst them. The non-participants become the council, who must silently bear witness to the grim proceedings. Meanwhile, two adjudicators, a father (Eugene Suleau) and daughter (Kathryn Adams), guide the trials, issue their judgements, and prepare the one who is to be selected as the new Dorothy.
Alternative interpretations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (the book being in the public domain, if not the Garland film) have been done before. Wicked comes to mind, as well as NBC's short-lived Emerald City. There is something perversely alluring about re-imagining children's fiction for adult consumption. In the original work, an outsider comes along and kills the leaders of two warring factions, defrocks the central magistrate, and then abruptly skips off. In The Kanziss Trials, we are asked to consider what exactly does happen to a society left in the wake of these major political upheavals?
If the premise of this show seems a bit dark, the implementation is actually quite lovely. Participants are in for a very gentle experience as they are shuffled about between the exercises, and for interactive theatre very little is actually demanded of them. While, from the audience, you feel yourself wanting to reach out to those on stage: there were many sympathetic 'awws' when a tribute was removed, or was left without a dancing partner, and these communal moments were easily amongst my favourite of the performance. And, it can't go without saying, Adams and Suleau were excellent at putting both participants and non-participants at ease, not to mention offering fine performances in their own right.
The show was a little short, ducking in well-under the advertised runtime, and a little more lore would have been welcome in order to pad out the proceedings. (Having witnessed a dry-run of this show, I know creator Joel Allan has already made significant steps in this direction.) But this is ambitious interactive theatre which greatly rewards participation, and I'm impressed at how well it has come together given Allan has ear-marked it for further development. There is one final performance that has already sold out, but look out for this show when it returns next year.
Learn more about The Kanziss Trials here.