The fantasy storybook THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE has been a firm favourite from the Narnia chronicles and has been placed on many a childhood bookcase for over half a century, but does a stage production really work? While acknowledging it has been produced for stage before, it is quite an ambitious undertaking to get the scene setting requirements right. So let’s investigate. Yes, I’d say, in regard to the puppetry on show, it works very well; there are many top moments when the puppets feature. Other positives include a clever set designed to cope with the four main characters moving in between the two worlds, and simple ideas incorporate all what needs to be represented. One or two trick-of-the-eye techniques are used and a large scale stage illusion adds a touch of mystery.
There is no doubt that without the live music and the input of the talented musicians this would not make it through. The drum playing really stands out particularly, and adds so much to dramatic scenes. Nevertheless, as is the case with many Christmas productions, some songs with lyrics attached are a bit corny. There are some powerful singing performances (and some a bit toe curling), and when the cast are singing in full unison the layered style vocals are rather lovely.
An ensemble cast: and I’ve seen Jo Servi (Mr Tumnus) in a Christmas show before so acknowledging another strong performance from him, and Nuno Silva (controller of the Aslan puppet head and the voice of the great lion) was suitably noble in his duties! And Alison McKenzie plays the White Witch ‘to the book’.
All you really want to know reading this is if your young child will like it. Well please know, after the interval particularly, that there are quite a few troughs and not that many peaks, and you should be aware ahead that there is a rather dark and sinister mood created, twinned with a tribal-like dance break in war preparing scenes which feature the Witch and the Minotaur creatures. And I would well imagine, for those youngsters who are not wholly familiar with this children’s classic, or are very young, that the story will not make a great deal of sense. There are not many characters that your child will really warm too, but your child will undoubtedly enjoy the visual experience, and will love the moment when Mr and Mrs Beaver are introduced (Thomas Aldridge and Sophia Nomvete respectively) as they inject much needed energy and humour at a time when the play has very much dipped.
All photographs: Graeme Braidwood
Review by theatre critic, Debra Hall who attended press night showing of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 26 November 2015 – 7pm. A repeat online publishing of this review also appears at Remotegoat
Note: Reviewer received this comment from a friend who also attended the press night show with her two children aged 5 and 8 years
‘We were there yesterday too – loved it!‘