As a long-time devotee of the Narnia books which I first encountered forty years ago, I’m interested in any adaptation of the series – TV, film, stage.
I grew up with the BBC version of this The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but like all bookworms have had my own idea of what the four Pevensies, the White Witch, and Aslan look like.
Sslly Cookson’s production debuted at the West Yorkshire (now Leeds) playhouse in December 2017, and is largely devoid of the technical trickery that has cluttered previous productions.
Here, simple props such as bedsheets and luggage serve to conjure magical worlds and spaces within Rae Smith’s set, and the utilisation of audience members as first evacuees, and then the first green shoots of Spring, is deeply imaginative.
Peter (Femi Akinfolarin) remains the steadfast one, Lucy (Keziah Joseph) the idealist, Susan (Shalisha James-Davis) the pragmatist, and Edmund (John Leader) the odd one out (perhaps even on the autism spectrum) but they, and Professor Kirke (Wil Johnson, who also plays Aslan), bring in the perception of the outsider in a strange land.
The White Witch (Laura Elphinstone) seems to assume another layer of oppression when all her supposed enemies are non-Caucasian, and I found this gave an additional layer to CS Lewis’s story of sibling rivalry, greed, bravery, love and self-sacrifice.
Aslan himself is presented both as man and puppet, while the animals of Narnia feel very human indeed: the beavers have detachable “tails”, the fox smokes a pipe, the white stag has a sense of regality lacking in an animal bred for hunting.
This is an entertaining version of the tale – it may lack a bit of emotional engagement, but it works hard to keep young audience members interested and does not betray those of us who, even now, touch the back of a wardrobe just to check if there is a secret portal there.
As the Professor says, “there is nothing more probable” than a host of parallel worlds. This show sprinkles that little bit of magic while still addressing the reality of the real world.
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe has two more weeks to run at the Bridge Theatre. Photo credits Brinkhoff Moegenburg.
LouReviews purchased a ticket to see The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.