Monday, 7 November 2022

REVIEW: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at the Gillian Lynne theatre

Everyone loves an adventure, an Escape from the mundane everyday life we live. But for the Pevensie children, this adventure to an enchanted world, Narnia, Is an adventure they’ll never forget. C.S Lewis’ critically acclaimed book and the eventual motion picture film The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe finally make its journey to the stage in stunning fashion. 

Set during World War One and the evacuation of the children takes place at the start of the show. Accompanied by Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’ we meet the Pevensie children, Peter (Ammar Duffus), Susan (Robyn Sinclair), Edmund (Shaka Kalokoh) and Lucy (Delainey Hayles). The children's journey from a war-struck London to Scotland to stay with Professor Kirk, upon exploring the vast mansion the children are staying in, pungent Lucy stumbles upon a spare room and a wardrobe. Curiosity gets the better of Lucy and as she stumbles towards the back of the wardrobe she stumbles upon Narnia. 

What’s instantly striking with the set is that there isn’t a set, so to speak. More props are placed throughout each screen to show the moving along of the story, though Set designer Tom Paris uses a clever and inventive use of the props to constantly shift between scenes and make excellent use of the stage space. The ensemble within the show is also fantastic, it’s a very ensemble-heavy show and utilises each cast member to strengthen the scenes. The actors also perform the songs whilst playing the instrument to add to the skill of the ensemble and utilise and showcase the ability of the actors. The physical transformations between the scenes are the most impressive. Many who’ve seen the film would no doubt be sceptical as to how certain scenes would be pulled off. Yet the physical transformations between scenes take the parts of the film and perfectly imitate those on the stage. 

Deserving of high praise is Choreographer Shannelle ‘Tali’ Fergus. The physical translations and dance segments throughout the show are joyous to watch, they seamlessly move through scenes. The production never feels like it takes a break to change and just continuously flows. Also the eldest and youngest Pevensie siblings Peter and Lucy. Duffer is excellent as the eldest, a stern and powerful performance capturing the side of Peter that hints at vulnerability but ultimately a protective nature over his family. Lucy steals the show however, Hayles captures the innocence of a child yet adds a humerus tone to Lucy, she’s both comedic and endearing and a focal point whenever on stage. 

As for the other characters such as the White Witch (Samantha Womack), Womack perfectly portrays the cold nature of the evil queen, an intimidating performance from her leaves you fearing the worst for the heroes in the show. That said until the great Aslan (Chris Jared) arrives. Aslan is an unforgettable character as he’s portrayed through the actor himself and a puppet lion next to him following his every move and motion. The puppetry team of Sean Lopeman & Shaun McCourt capture the lion exquisitely, hints of the theatre's previous production of War Horse here as the believability that a lion is prowling in front of you is life like. 

If we have to be critical then a few scenes were slightly rushed or not nearly explored as much as they could be. The battle for Narnia for instance was spoken about for the majority of the show and then happened and was very anticlimactic and pretty underwhelming. Also, as a few actors shone, it exposed a few as possibly slightly weaker. 

It does take the best from theatre though. The physical theatre, actor-musicians and puppetry all add together to culminate into a production that’s bewitching and magical. Director Mike Fentiman has taken Sally Cookson’s original production and created a show that continues to enchant audiences and bring the magic of Narnia to life on stage. Time may pass briefly in Narnia but make no mistake, this production is timeless. 

Review by George Butler

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls F31 | Price of Ticket: £224.50
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