The critically acclaimed theatre production of C.S Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe transports you to a magical world. While we follow the Pevensie siblings into the world of Narnia, our imaginations run wild as a combination of music, movement, puppetry and costumes create the kingdom behind the wardrobe we all imagined as kids.
We begin in London, as Lucy (Karise Yansen), Susan (Robyn Sinclair), Edmund (Shaka Kalokoh) and Peter (Ammar Duffus) are evacuated to the Aberdeenshire country side. There is a sequence of suitcases becoming lights, lights becoming trains, people running and dancing around the stage, creating a busy atmosphere through movement. This event makes a statement, as we as the audience begin to realize how visually appealing this performance is going to be. Throughout, we see these mesmerizing movement pieces which take us to new locations, from the wardrobe, to Mr Tumnus’ house, to the White Witch’s sled as actors become props and tents lower from the ceiling. The switching between settings had the potential to be really choppy and clunky, but director Michael Fentiman and choreographer Shannelle Fergus created a sensational flow between scenes that were fantastical and interesting.
The Pevensie children were outstanding! Playing characters people have known since childhood is no easy task. The audience already have their own idea of what these characters are like from either the books or the films. I don’t think this was a problem for the actors, they embodied the four children with their different quirks and personalities. Lucy played by Karise Yansen was the star of the show, despite this being her theatre debut! Her curiosity and kindness shone through while we followed her journey to become the bringer of light. Edmund played by Shaka Kalokoh was another standout. The character of Edmund is such an interesting character as one minute he’s bratty and mischievous, then he’s sweet. We go on a rollercoaster with this character.
The White Witch (Samantha Womack) was fabulously wicked! Her pivotal moment was when she declared war with Aslan and his followers by shooting up into the sky. Hoisted up by wires, Womack looked menacing yet beautiful as she floated in the air with white drapes falling below her to look like a dress. It was reminiscent of the Elphaba’s climax in Wicked. There was a lot of lifts and aerial use which added to the magic and trickery of the eye where actors disappeared into thin air. I was dumbfounded so I can only imagine how the kids in the audience felt; it was magical!
The use of puppetry and costume throughout was fantastic and added to that element of “imagination”. The ensemble was dressed as woodland creatures and used props for features like tails and ears. One scene in particular was stunning to watch, where an actor danced and twirled through the woods with a Robin on their hand. The fluidity between puppet and actor was amazing; you weren’t supposed to be amazed at a real-life-looking robot. Aslan for example was not a full puppet, his back legs were missing and the puppet’s mouth did not move. This made you flex your imaginative muscles, to create the rest of lion in your mind. However, Aslan seemed to be overlooked, as we only see him in the second act and he had died and was resurrected within about half an hour. Of course, if we were to see the whole story of Narnia on stage, it would take hours but the rushed storyline of such an important character was disappointing.
Throughout the performance, folk music was played to add to the woodland, magical atmosphere of Narnia. Actors appear onstage with their instruments as they play along to songs about the 100-year winter. The same way the kids have their swords and arrows, the woodland creatures’ instruments work the same way; they are a symbol of hope and unity. Live music by the cast was a beautiful touch to tie the performance in a bow.
‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ is a whimsical experience for all the family. Just as Lucy is transported through the wardrobe, through all the enchanting elements we too are taken to the beautiful version of Narnia this team have crafted. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is playing at the King’s Theatre until Saturday 12th February.
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