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As day turned to dusk at one of London’s most beautiful garden squares, the talented children from Earl’s Court made ready to achieve the impossible. Their goal? To transport us to a magical place called the Land of Oz. And take us they did. One hundred and twenty local children auditioned for parts in the play, with Earl’s Courtiers Director Toby Brown and Producer Inge Marks choosing 45 from ten local primary schools to work with, and in so doing made this daunting communitytheatre project a charming reality. “We have worked with our young actors for 12-weeks, helping to boost self-confidence, craft characters, and learn how to fearlessly act in front of their community,” Inge Marks explained. “It has been no small task, but a real privilege to see our cast – aged between four and 12 – learn new skills and step up to the mark, literally.”

Our family arrived at Barkston Gardens to the joyous chatter of excited Munchkins – 18 in total – many of whom were preparing for their stage debut. We took our seats at the front-of-stage picnic area. Lights dimmed and the low hum of giggles subsided for the opening scene of Dorothy, played by Mollie Nelson and Giulia Fraccalvieri over the four night run, invite the audience to come on a magically colourful ride to the Land of Oz. The Wizard of Oz (Toby Connolly), Scarecrow (Samson Marraccino), Tin Man (Gia Abell) the larger than life Cowardly Lion (Ella Nelson), and the enchanting Glinda the Good Witch (Josephine Surminski) brought funny, thrilling and heart tugging moments to the journey. We particularly enjoyed the imaginative costumes, all handcrafted by Inge Marks, and the novel story twists – like the journey beginning and ending in Earl’s Court rather than Kansas. Crows, jitterbugs, poppies, flying monkeys, scary guards, evil trees, an amazing selection of Oz folk, and a spectacular cast of witches completed Barkston Gardens magical transformation.

Stand-out performances for us included Sukie Dainton Harrison as the Wicked Witch of the West and Caspian Marks, who played Toto, Dorothy’s cute little dog. At just four years old, Caspian is a seasoned Earl’s Court stage veteran, playing the little pig in Alice in Wonderland with aplomb this time last year. Masterful performances one and all, the main characters were as impressive as any professional young actors we have ever seen, possible, in no small part, to the expert coaching they have received from Brown and the Earl’s Courtiers troupe over the past three months. “A number of our young actors have had some previous acting experience, at school, mostly, however the bulk of our cast members had never been on stage before,” said Brown. “

Our annual plays reach out to the community and encourage children with an interest to express themselves through acting, a chance to perform in front of friends and family in the neighbourhood. Each and every child made a huge effort to learn their lines, and the success of the play is down to hundreds of hours of practice, rehearsals and dedication.”

The Wizard of Oz was supported by the Earls’ Court Community Trust, Dame Diana Rigg, TLC Estate Agents, The Earl’s Court Project and CAPCO, and Margarete Geier.

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