In The Wizard of Oz, they’re the trio of faithful friends who help Dorothy reach the Emerald City and defeat the Wicked Witch of the West. Anyone who’s seen the film will remember the Scarecrow who sings “If I Only Had A Brain”, the Tin Man who yearns for a heart, and the Cowardly Lion who just longs to be brave. Bringing these much-loved characters to life on the Haymarket stage are Craig Saunders, Bryn Hughes and Ian ‘Spud’ Smith, all long-term members of Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical Society.
Dorothy (Alyssia Kershaw) with Lion (Ian 'Spud' Smith), Scarecrow (Craig Saunders) and Tin Man (Bryn Hughes)
“It’s great being able to act stupid and get away with it!” laughs Craig, who spends much of the time as the Scarecrow falling over. Luckily his costume is well padded. But Scarecrow faces other perils in the show. “At one point my legs and arms get pulled off by flying monkeys!” Fortunately Bryn and Spud know how to put him back together. “It’s been great getting that camaraderie with the other guys.”
As Tin Man, Bryn is encased in an impressive metal costume that was built for BATS’ 1985 production of The Wizard of Oz. Bryn has helped to completely renovate it, alongside stage manager Steve Brannam. “I’ve been rehearsing in the costume to get the movement right. You feel quite restricted. It’s not that heavy but it’s quite difficult to walk and tap dance in.”
When the show opens, Bryn must also contend with silver make-up, a skin tight catsuit and a big funnel on his head. “It’s going to be very hot! I’ll make sure there’s plenty of water at the side of the stage!”
Spud is also expecting to sweat buckets in his furry lion costume and mane. He has vivid memories of appearing in BATS’ 1998 production of The Wizard of Oz. “I broke my elbow on stage! I was playing a Munchkin, jumped off a wall and lost my footing.”
This time round will be a happier occasion – he’ll mark his 200th performance at the Haymarket during the run. His four-year-old son Reuben will also be in the audience. Spud says he’s a tough critic. “If I’m practising my lines he picks up on any mistakes. He knows the script better than I do!”
Craig, Bryn and Spud all praise the dedication of the cast and crew bringing The Wizard of Oz to the stage. “There’s a joyous atmosphere in rehearsals,” says Spud. “It’s a wonderful family show, and everyone wants to make it as good as it can be.”
Ten performances of The Wizard of Oz run from Thursday 20 - Saturday 29 November. Performances start at 7.15pm with 2.15pm matinees on Saturday 22, Sunday 23 and Saturday 29.