Writer: C S Lewis
Director: Michael Fentiman
Presenting the C S Lewis classic The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to the stage is a perfect addition to the theatre landscape. The well-known storyline, enchanting set transitions and captivating choreography combine to wow the audience and bring the childhood staple to life.
Set during World War II, the Pevensie children are evacuated from their home and sent to the countryside to stay in a lavish country manor with a quirky professor. Exploring the house, Lucy stumbles across an intriguing looking wardrobe in one of the spare rooms. Climbing inside, she is transported through a portal to a parallel universe – Narnia. Greeted by a friendly faun by the name of Mr Tumnus she is introduced to this faraway land. Warned to avoid the evil White Witch, she’s excited to share her journey with her siblings – but they immediately assume she just has an over-active imagination. But believing is part of Narnia’s spell and soon the whole Pevensie clan is swept up in an adventure that none of them could have ever even dreamed.
The biggest stand-out within the show is how conceptually choreographed the whole production is. Beautifully crafted, each scene uses a combination of illusions, puppetry, dance routines and costumes to convey the enchanted world of Narnia. Tom Paris (set design) and Chris Fisher (illusions and magic) work in conjunction to mesmerise the audience – children and adults alike are awestruck with the seamlessly artistic transitions between scenes. There is never an empty moment on stage, and the level of detail that goes into each creatively crafted element is impressive. The narrative is relatively dark, with lots of death references and fight scenes, but rather than being sensationalised or frightening for any young children in the audience, these scenes are artistically approached by choreographer Shanelle ‘Tali’ Fergus, and instead morphed into stunningly synchronised dance pieces.
The Pevensie children are all fabulous within their roles as the inquisitive, courageous family unit. Delainey Hayles (Lucy), Shaka Kalakoh (Edmund), Robyn Sinclair (Susan) and Ammar Duffus (Peter) have all perfected the childlike wonder, bravery and naivety that their characters require, as well as sprinkling through the well needed bits of humour through relatable sibling interactions, that is needed to lighten the atmosphere at points. Unsurprisingly, Samantha Womack is perfectly cast as the White Witch. A force to be reckoned with, she embodies the frosty ice Queen with ease, commanding attention every time she is on stage.
The first act builds the tension, creative input and cast chemistry dynamics that are required for such a familiar narrative. The second act in comparison, feels slightly overlooked, with some scenes being sped through to fit them in, losing some of the initial pace and slow-build structure that helped contribute to many of the entrancing moments that drew the audience in initially. Bringing some larger scale additions to the second act would elevate the production and engulf the audience even further into the fictional landscape.
While the Pevensie children need a magical wardrobe to transport them into the chillingly beautiful world of Narnia – thankfully, all you need is a ticket to the wonderful Gillian Lynne Theatre.
Runs until 8 January 2023