Writer: C S Lewis, dramatised by Adrian Mitchell
Director: Tessa Walker
Reviewer: James Garrington
Christmas is coming – and what do you do if you want to take children to the theatre but don’t fancy a panto?
As is now traditional at The REP, you can find an adaptation of a classic book dramatised for the stage – and this year’s is the C.S. Lewis classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The book is well-known – it tells the magical tale of four children, evacuated to a large country house during the war and who find adventure in another land, only accessible through a wardrobe in the spare room. This land, Narnia, is a place where animals speak, mystical creatures roam – and a wicked witch has taken over, making it always winter and never Christmas. Never fear, though, because salvation is on its way in the form of the lion, Aslan.
This is a classic allegorical tale of good against evil, with a thin veneer covering the religious message beneath. Nonetheless, the C.S. Lewis book is a reasonably easy read – but while this adaptation by Adrian Mitchell is faithful to the original concept, what we see on stage is often pretty heavy going. The pace is often slow, and opportunities to lighten the mood are missed meaning that the production is pretty lengthy, and not necessarily engaging for the younger audience. Although there is music, written by Shaun Davey, throughout, it is not memorable and misses the chance to add a lighter touch – Lucy taking tea and toast with a Faun surely cries out for a song, for example. Yet the sacrifice and resurrection of Aslan, when it cries out for high drama, is all a bit underplayed.
Having said that, the production does have a number of good elements. Designer Jamie Vartan has come up with a nice set, overcoming the challenge of making snow melt, and a stone table appearing, quite admirably. While the use of puppets is now pretty commonplace, the three-man Aslan in this production looks quite impressive and has a very feline feel when it moves – and manages to disappear quite well too, one of a few magic tricks that occur throughout the play. There are some nicely judged performances, notably from Allison Mckenzie as the Witch, stalking the stage in a pretty regal manner, and who has a powerful voice to match.
There is also good work from Thomas Aldridgeand Sophia Nomveteas the Beavers, complete with some touching little bits of business and good movement – something which actually goes for all of the animal characters, where clearly attention has been paid to getting the movement right. The children at the heart of the story are well characterised though they should take care to ensure that their dialogue doesn’t get lost during the more excitable moments. Michael Lanni’sPeter is suitably upstanding and brave, seeking to protect his younger siblings, while Leonie Elliottgives Susan a nice child-like air. James Thackeray(Edmund) does a nice line in being defensive then contrite while Emilie Fleming’sLucy is feisty and passionate.
A magical tale, but not quite the magical production you would hope for Christmas.
Runs until 16 January 2016 | Image: Graeme Braidwood