Behind the scenes of Oz

Trish as the wicked witch. Picture: Andrew Rudd Photography
Trish as the wicked witch. Picture: Andrew Rudd Photography
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TRISH TAKES FIVE: By Trish Burgess

Rehearsals are well under way for the SADOS production of The Wizard of Oz. As you can see, yours truly has had a trial run of the green paint which was expertly applied by our resident make-up artist, the very talented Milan Reddy-Devlin.

I scared myself silly, as well as half the children who were rehearsing that night, when I looked in the mirror. Thankfully it was easy to remove, though it did leave my face with a definite green tinge, as if I’d just come off a cross channel ferry in a Force 10 gale.

Promotional images were taken by Andrew Rudd Photography, better known to me as the Tin Man. It was quite a feat for him to take a series of photos of the cast, including himself, whilst clanking about in full costume. He was keen to recreate an iconic image of the witch from the movie and I think the result is fantastic.

I love to discover as much as possible about the production and the role I’m playing so I’ve been doing some 
research. It seems the original film was beset with problems.

Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West, suffered second degree burns on her hands and face when she was exposed to flames in the Munchkinland scene.

After six weeks convalescing, she returned to the set on the proviso that she would have a stand-in for any other dangerous scenes. Betty Danko, the stunt witch, was then seriously burned when the mechanism for producing smoke during a broomstick flight malfunctioned.

I’ve not asked our team yet how we are going to tackle these special effects in our show at the South Holland Centre. I imagine some technical wizardry, or should that be witchery, will be involved but I might be asking for some fireproof underwear just in case.

The original Tin Man in the movie was Buddy Ebsen. Sources say that ten days into filming, he was also hospitalised when his lungs were damaged by breathing in the aluminium powder make-up. He was quietly replaced by actor Jack Haley and the true story didn’t emerge until decades later. Haley’s face was painted with aluminium paste instead plus protective greasepaint underneath.

Our Tin Man has also suffered for his art. His suit, made from turned and welded steel, has given him some cuts and bruises, even cutting through his jeans at one stage. This is being 
addressed but he tells me it’s going to be tough during the performance, as he won’t be able to sit down properly and it’s extremely hot. Our cowardly lion, Charlie Russell, will also be feeling the heat in his furry outfit.

I asked Andrew what he had done in the editing suite to make me look like such an ugly old hag.

“Nothing! I photoshopped in some colour on your hands and your shadow, but otherwise left it as it is.”

“So, bar the make-up, that’s the real me?”


• Tickets are now available for The Wizard of Oz from the South Holland Centre box office 01775 764777