Issue 261
View this email in your browser


"Is he not in the auditorium?" He's not. "Have you tried the workshop?" We have. "What about Wardrobe? The Tin Man needs a respray and look at these Munchkins!" A big, ambitious production of The Wizard of Oz opened last week, and we eventually tracked down costume and puppet designer, Samuel Wyer (pictured), to talk giant craniums, the role of women in Oz and those red shoes.
You're a hard man to find, Sam.
I am today — it's press night in seven hours, and let's just say, there's a still a fair bit to do.
The Wizard of Oz is ram-packed with iconic characters, which is your pick?
That's tricky. Every character ultimately answers a question you have about yourself, and for me as a designer, fulfils an approach. The Tin Man was interesting. I was taking his design in a really abstract direction, which changed into an energetic, body-popping character as the show developed — we've been working on it since April! We wanted to make the costume bright and youthful, and freedom of movement was critical, but we also wanted it to look rusty. Nostalgic. I found two out-of-date brands of oil: Marve's Mystery and OilZum. The logo on the latter looked weirdly similar to our Wizard, and the nod to Professor Marvel couldn't have been more perfect. The logos helped us give a rusty old visual identity to a costume where the audience could still see our actor move freely. I'm fond of the Cowardly Lion, too — a character that belongs in the world of circus and soft toys and Victoriana — which I've captured with tailoring and pom-poms and an over the top bow. 

But your favourite, Sam? If we put a gun against your head.
I could talk about every character to answer your question, or more accurately, not answer it. I haven't even talked about Dorothy yet.
Let's do Dorothy. Were those red sequined army boots we saw in Wardrobe hers, by any chance?
Absolutely — a much grungier, industrial Dorothy [pictured, left] than you're used to. We wanted somebody who is capable, maybe a bit difficult, and really confident. And by giving her this practical farm worker look, with dungarees and boots — that don't start off red, of course — we have a woman ready for an adventure. 

That sounds really vital to you. Is the role of women generally an important part of the show?
Through the script and the costume and the direction, the strength of women is critical. Liam [Steel, the director] wants all the girls and at least half the boys to look at the Good Witch Glinda [right] and think, I want to be like that. So then stylistically you have to think about who a good role model is. For Glinda's costume, I borrowed from Catherine Hepburn, aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, and the bold, brilliant incredible trouser suits of Marlene Dietrich. Rather than the fairy-like traditional interpretation in a huge hooped skirt, we have a super glamorous but incredibly powerful and practical Good Witch.
And what about the Wizard?
At the centre of the story, Professor Marvel has been recast as a woman. As the person behind the Wizard, she has created this avatar of perceived power to rule over Oz. And the inference is that in order to do that, she has to don the persona of a man. The giant Wizard puppet has a balloon-shaped head, almost inflated looking like in the film. It's lit in order to be a sort of terrifying mother brain of a strange ruler and borrows from Professor Marvel's caravan [pictured]. I work with an incredible team of puppet makers, and though I find it hard to be 100% happy with anything I haven't made, with a puppet the size of the Wizard, I couldn't have made it without the team. We couldn't even fit the Wizard's head through the door of the rehearsal studio it's so big! I love the reveal of the Wizard — a visual treat.
Before we let you go back into hiding, what other moments should we be looking out for?
Every moment of puppetry in this show is fantastic, like when the audience meets the Munchkins. It's amazing watching their faces. An audience trying to work out whether they're going to be portrayed by a group of year 5s, or actors on their knees, or [spoiler alert] incredible puppets full of personality with bags of dancing ability. Technically this is such an ambitious production — there are great big pieces of set shifting up and down, seven ensembles, and seven illuminated doors that have to find their place on stage. And I haven't even mentioned the flying monkeys. 
The Wizard of Oz is at The Rep until Jan 13. Tickets are from £15. 


Almost like they planned it with 25/12/18 in mind, independent creators Provide have released a load of new merch to suit all budgets, and all tastes, so long as your taste is totally Brum and totally boss. Get an illustrated B-Town print for £12.99, like the pinky one of the BT Tower pictured. Or there's hella good selection of mugs for your very own bab. And the pick of the Christmas Tree Pops? Brum's officially unofficial scarf (£19.99). Straight out of a 90s Ralph Lauren Sport collection, the scarf uses colours and elements from the People's Flag of Birmingham — we don't need to tell you about the bull, but yes that yellow zig-zag can be viewed as an abstract B, smarty pants. Wanna see the whole range? Provide is putting on an open studio this Friday and Saturday at their Pershore Street digs. Meet them, eat mince pies, do some Crimbo shopping with a local indy, and maybe say hi to their roomies, the achingly cool and e'er so arty Space_Play and ImbueMore


If you spot an Original Patty Man outside his indigenous environment, you get five points on Brum Bingo. If you get one to make you a burger at a Michelin-starred restaurant, we're pretty sure you win the whole game. And you're right to like the sound of where this is going. Carters and OPM are bumping nasties for a one-off collab actually in Moseley's Michelin bespangled dining room. Brad and the Patty Men have two burgers for you to choose from: a 50-day-aged Hereford beef and bone marrow patty with truffle mayo and foie gras, or a whole crispy soft shell crab number, which, amongst other things, comes with caviar. Everyone gets beef fat chips, pud and a side: oysters or beef and Ogleshield cheese nuggets. It's £30 a spot, and you can bolt on extras if the decisioning is too hard. From 3pm on December 16, book here. Full menu


The Midlands has comic cred and BFI Comedy Genius is a season of films at the MAC to remind audiences quite how much. Originally grabbing attention in cult classic Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, the pregnancy horror comedy, Prevenge launched writer, actor, director and Midlander Alice Lowe into the country’s cinematic consciousness. This season looks back at her 2012 turn in director Ben Wheatley’s dark comedy fave, Sightseers, which will be followed by a Q&A with the main woman herself on her work, including that time she played a monkey on The Mighty Boosh. On Dec 16, tickets are £9. If you like your LOLs a little lighter though, hows-about the wonderfully whimsy Amelie, who narrates the eccentricities of her life in the Frenchy romcom, with a special intro by Brum comedian Jo Enright. Ooh la la. On Dec 12, tickets are £9.


Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ may have the title of one of those lame tie-ins you get at theme parks, but this is an unexpected wonder. Pitched at a slightly more family audience than the Marvel live-action series, this follows an alternate Spider-Man, who crosses into parallel universes to team up with other versions of himself. If that sounds confusing, trust us – it’s not, and the animation is incredible. What could be a cheap cash-in to milk the brand yet again has clearly been someone’s labour of love. If only normal superhero flicks had half the creativity this has. Previewing this weekend before its December 12 release. Times


For December, Harborne's got a new drinking hole. Sadler's Brewery is popping up right where Fallen Angel Bakery used to be at 77 High Street. Open from 10am until 11pm daily, there's coffees, traybakes, toasties and pastry sort of good stuff by day, and rotating beers by the PM. Pick from three cask ales and six kegs, changing regularly. They've also got spirits and the mulled stuff if you're bringing anyone who's beer suspicious. The venue will then close for a refurb and reopen as a permanent bar, kitchen and gin distillery. Lucky ol' Harborne.
Venue: Fiesta del Asado, 177 Stratford Road, Shirley, B90 3AX; website
Choice: Bife de Lomo (£27.89) Chooser: Waiter

Please-say-ribeye-please-say-ribeye-please-say-ribeye-please-say-ribeye. This, on repeat, whirring through our head when we asked our waiter what to order and (as if you've forgotten how this section works) we have to go with what's suggested. Two options he gave us, neither ribeye. Our heart sank. A 20oz flat iron steak (20 ounces!), or the 11oz fillet on the bone. We went with option two, mainly because we can't eat viking quantities of meat. Fiesta Del Asado's second venue in Shirley adds to the flagship restaurant on Hagley Road and it's every bit as good as its forefather. Possibly better. The fillet comes rare (so back in viking territory) and though everyone else around the table ordered ribeye, they were fools. We have rarely eaten beef so soft. This was wagyu-levels of tender — meat in cloud form. You can taste the flavour held in by the bone and by the seared, charred, rich barbecuey exterior. We sank into oblivion, swirling Malbec and contributing to conversation only when spoken to. Worth. Every. Penny. Side note: Where did Shirley's
Craft Inn come from? It's a few doors down from Fiesta and totally worth a look. If these two venues are a taster of the future of Shirley, things are looking up up up. Menu
Another reason to go to Kings Heath opens at 5pm on Monday. Bottle shop and craft ale bar Hop & Scotch is coming to an Institute Road near you. If you're in Kings Heath. 
That BMAG now does Crimbo pressies. From Staffordshire Hoard related gear, like an Anglo Saxon rubber duck, to Bird's Custard mugs, maybe go local and give Amazon a break today? All the gear
A few spots remain for a sit down meal with Del and Rodney. Sort of. Join comedy impersonators and professional actors for an immersive sitcom experience of Only Fools and Horses. Dinner-inclusive tickets are £54, until December 15. 
Afternoon tea, without the tea, is the pitch from Drunken Tiger for the next three Saturdays in Harborne. And in place of a brew? It's all about Prosecco cocktails. Genius-grade sub, guys. It's £22.50 a spot. More   
Subscribe free
WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom CullenRobb Sheppard, Andrew Lowry
PICTURES: The Wizard of Oz — Samuel Wyer, Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse — Sony Pictures

Advertise with us?

We will never share your email address. Ads and commercial offers are clearly marked. We sometimes run paid for Partnership Emails with selected affiliates. These will be marked as Partnership Emails at the top of the email.

I Choose Birmingham, 18 Great Western Arcade, Birmingham B2 5HU
Copyright © 2018 Birmingham Publishing Group Ltd, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences