“It’s all in the wardrobe like I told you”
The story of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis has been engrossing all readers, both young and old, for over 70 years. Selling over 85 million copies and in 60 languages, this book has been one of the ten best-selling books of all time and will continue to enchant readers and now viewers.
As the audience arrive, they are immediately transported back in time to World War II as we are welcomed by a solo pianist playing on stage. Starting the show with the piano and a rendition of “We’ll Meet Again” is an emotional opening, reminding audiences of past turmoil and loss, while setting the scene for where the story and the opening of The Wardrobe. Music is tremendously important throughout the show and the choice to have the ensemble cast as the orchestra provided for a magical experience in the spirit of Narnia.
Lighting is used extensively in this production and creates smooth transitions between scenes, allowing the audience to become fully immersed in the story. Floor and backlight lighting aids in creating wintery Narnia and the magic which happens there. While special effects are used, more impressive is the actors’ creativity through movement and dance to bring sequences to life such as the train journey and the monster Turkish delight.
The ensemble particularly standout and are the heart of show’s magic. While the set is somewhat minimal, the ensemble become the set, by either holding furniture fittings or through their physicality. While the children are in Professor Kirk’s house, the feel of the temporary set adds to the fantasy and reflects the situation happening beyond the conflict in The Wardrobe.
One forgets the collection of animals in Narnia, which may have posed challenges, however the way in which the animals were represented was fantastic. Puppets were used to portray Professor Kirk’s cat, Schrödinger, and the King of the creatures himself, Aslan (Chris Jared). The puppetry was flawless, and through the cast interactions, the animals became entirely believable. Mr Beaver (Julian Hoult) and Mrs Beaver (Christina Tedders) as a dynamic duo provided comedic value and high energy performances, their costumes doing little of the work as their animalistic characterisation was spot on. Professor Kirk (Johnson Willis) also provided some light-hearted relief in present day. Willis additionally portrayed Father Christmas, an upbeat and highlight of the show.
The White Witch (Samantha Womack) was equally merciless as she was cruel. Womack portrayed the villain we have come to fear flawlessly and indeed fashionably. The four Pevensie children were cast wonderfully – their chemistry tangible and believable as siblings.
Those who come to this show, have come because of the legacy which The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe holds. The show incorporates all manner of themes including war, bereavement, tyranny, travel, and theories of time. By encapsulating both real and fantastical aspects of the world, this story is one that is to escape age and time, allowing audiences to use their imagination and gain their own interpretation. A magical masterpiece, this performance will leave you fully entertained, feeling moved and sated.
Tickets available up until 8th January 2023 can be found at: https://www.lionwitchonstage.com/tickets/
Reviewer: Maani Way
Reviewed: 28th July 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★