This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub.
Debbie is 21. She’s a true blue Dub with a half-hearted degree in hospitality, whatever that is. At Liberty Travel she arranges holidays to Shagaluf as well as more exotic places, though her increasing hangovers make the day’s work all the more difficult. Aaron, her boyfriend, may have done something stupid last night. Or maybe she did. She’s the kind of person you become best friends with on a night out but then probably never hear from again. She’s all fun and full of chat. Debbie is broken. So is her family.
As Debbie, Gilmore offers the audience her heart on her sleeve and has them rooting for her from the very beginning. Her personable nature reels the audience in and the portrayal of the various people in Debbie’s life keeps the momentum and the humour going. This alone won’t hold an audience’s interest forever but thankfully there is far more on offer than a few jokes and characterisations. The drip feed of a back story begins slowly and moments of duress are instantly complimented with the outburst of an old-school musical number. At first this can be a little jarring but that’s exactly the point. Behind Debbie’s hangover and her everyday problems lies something greater that gets covered up with show tunes and jazz hands, as well as alcohol, whenever it dares try to escape her unconsciousness. It’s this dichotomy that belies the superficial story and where the true heart of The Wickedness of Oz lies.
In a show that purposely goes over the top at times, Maguire’s direction manages to keep these moments clean and discrete, allowing the story to pick back up where it left off without feeling disjointed. The office scenes work well on stage but beyond this the set and props feel a bit unnecessary. They add moments of gaiety to the piece but Gilmore’s performance doesn’t really need any additional extras.
Creating a walkway between the café style seating allows Gilmore to parade among the audience and while it serves to build upon her being one of us, it too seems slightly surplus. Gilmore can carry a tune beautifully and she can certainly act. Given the reliance on musical numbers, sound and lighting need to be on form which they thankfully are. The Wickedness of Oz can also lay claim to the use of, quite frankly, the most heart-breaking audio clip ever.
The Wickedness of Oz is a grower of a show. It humorously entertains but then…bam. When Gilmore gets to demonstrate the full range of her dramatic abilities it will make the hair on your neck stand up and smash your heart without a care. This hour long show may not be perfect but it’s absolutely a must-see. Don’t miss it.
Runs until 23 September as part of the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival | Image: Clíona Ní Laoi
Writer: Kate Gilmore
Director: Clare Maguire