Cross the Shifting Sands

L. Frank Baum is the creator of one the most well-known fantasy worlds in literature, though his name is perhaps less famous. Maybe because his Oz books are best known via the musical adaptation, or maybe because he is much older than Tolkien, Rowling or Lewis. Either way, Cross the Shifting Sands intends to change that.

Some journeys – like Cross the Shifting Sands – are worth taking, even with the rough bits. Follow that road, Dorothy.

A one-man show, starring the author himself (as played by Jake Addley), it guides the audience through the tale of the author’s life and inspiration. A new piece by Addley and Mark King, the prose is beautiful. As befits a famous wordsmith, the descriptions bring life to his tale even at the most normal moments. Details like the way grass imprints on bare skin really bring his character into our reality.

And then he actually does step into our reality. This is, to an extent, an immersive piece, and Addley does break the barrier between the audience and stage on a few cherished occasions. It works because it is rare. Walking forward to take a seat among the audience draws attention primarily because it hadn’t happened before. When it did, I was gripped entirely.

That patience and frugality are virtues that extend to the play’s other elements. For instance, Baum slips into memories of his parents, or impersonations of his characters, but only in brief, satisfying moments. Or, there are moments when memories transform themselves into bits of prose from his not-yet written book. For example, a fire that burned his house and his cherished writings inspires the Scarecrow and his equation of fire and death. Incorporating these kinds of techniques ties the plot together nicely and gives the earlier bits a sense of relevance to the future.

That’s important, because the play’s biggest flaw is its slow start. Addley dramatically describes growing up as an outsider and a daydreamer, and the consequences that provoked from his fearful father. But this bore little weight with me, because it sounded like many origin stories I’d read before, including that of Spiderman. The show’s early stages set up a powerful ending, but in those early moment, the show is decidedly weak.

All of us, Baum says, follow a road through life (perhaps of yellow bricks). But some parts of that road are more interesting than others. There are parts with roses, and nice grass, which is okay, but there are also parts with flying monkeys and tin men and evil (but conquerable) witches. Still, some journeys – like Cross the Shifting Sands – are worth taking, even with the rough bits. Follow that road, Dorothy. 

Reviews by Bennett Bonci

Gilded Balloon Teviot

So You Think You're Funny? Grand Final

★★★
Assembly Rooms

To Hell in a Handbag

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Teviot

Tiff Stevenson: Bombshell

★★★★
Greenside @ Infirmary Street

War of the Sperms

★★★
theSpace on the Mile

Church Blitz

★★★
King's Theatre

The Divide - Part 2

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

L Frank Baum is perhaps one of the most famous authors of all time. His stories are told the world over, but what do we know about the man who gave us the gift of Oz? A childhood plagued by solitude, loss and loneliness ignited the most wonderful imagination, sparking what was to become a lifelong passion... obsession. He created a special, intricately detailed place in his mind, a place beyond the rainbow where he could forget about his troubles, and he chose to share it with the world. Come, delve into Baum's imagination...

Most Popular See More

Mary Poppins

From £37.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Witness for the Prosecution

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets