What is it about C S Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that we love so much? What is it about The Chronicles of Narnia that has enthralled children and adult readers alike? Is it the magic of the land, the faun or the talking animals? No! What we readers enjoy about the fantasy story is Aslan, the hero presented in the form of a Giant Lion: the conqueror of evil and, to some scholars, a representation of the Christian God. Film and theatre will always have a hard time impressing audiences with finding the best image to show the great and mighty lion.
This year the Rose Theatre in Kingston has broken its Christmas ticket sales record with 25,000 tickets for Theresa Heskins’ adaptation with Ciaran McConville’s direction of the famous book. Yet as much as I am thrilled for the production with this sell-out figure, my overall experience was dampened by some stage ideas and lack of direction, particularly a disappointing entrance of Aslan played by actor, Richard Pryal. It is not so much Pryal that is the disappointment, as his version of the larger than life character was spirited and human, it is more of the director’s choice of presenting Aslan that I have a quibble with.
The play begins just as the four Pevensie children Lucy (Kate Ashman), Edmund (Gwithian Evans), Susan (Thomy Lawson) and Peter (Callum Cronin) are sent away to a professor (also played by Pryal) as they are evacuated from London during World War II. War sirens and beaming lights set the scene, with the addition of Mrs Macready (Kate Tydman – who also plays White Witch), hosting tours in the professor’s house with a thick and funny accent. Yet the children’s humdrum life is turned upside by a looming and gothic-esque wardrobe. Once the children enter it, the stage turns into an expanse of ice and winter trees designed by Neil Murray. What is hidden behind large black curtains is beautiful Narnia and its famous lamp-post. The twinkle of triangles and chime instruments send excitement to the children in the audience and nostalgic emotions to the adults who are also treated to silver and white confetti released from above.
Best performance goes to Tydman for playing an evil and cat-like queen in her majestic and icy costume. James Gillan played a great Mr Tumnus in platform shoes as admirably as James McAvoy in Andrew Adamson’s 2005 film. Daniel Goode and Katy Secombe as Mr and Mrs Beaver were wholehearted, and Tomm Coles as the scary Maugrim wolf dog was as menacing, as he was scary. An enthusiastic performance was given by the 67 young actors from the Rose Youth Theatre. However, the word ‘youth’ is no understatement. To put it bluntly, as much as there were some great scenes; such as when Aslan sacrifices himself to the witch’s barbaric rodents, the play felt like it had been rehearsed and presented for a school.
I saw this production at its opening night so it could have been a case of first night jitters which needed more time for warming up. But there was also the play’s inability to spark my interest. For example, in 2012, Threesixty Theatre gave a performance of the novel live from Kensington with an artistically crafted Lion with a pre-recorded voice. This was the kind of pizazz some audience members may have expected and may have been a little let down by.
Review By Mary Nguyen
THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
By C S Lewis
Adapted for the stage by Theresa Heskins
Directed by Ciaran McConville
Sunday 30th November 2014 to Sunday 4th January 2015
Maugrim/Father Christmas/Music Captain – Tomm Coles
Mr Tumnus – James Gillan
Mr Beaver/Father – Daniel Goode
Aslan/Professor – Richard Pryal
Mrs Beaver/Mother – Katy Secombe
White Witch/Mrs Macready – Kate Tydman
Director – Ciaran McConville
Designer – Neil Murray
Lighting Designer – Aideen Malone
Sound Designer – Leigh Davies
Composer – Eamonn O’Dwyer
Choreographer – Keith O’Brien
Fight Director – Lyndall Grant
Associate Director – Chloe Stephens
Assistant Director – Rosie Jones
Vocal Coach – Sarah Stephenson
Singing Coach – Jody Ellen Robinson
Animal Movement Specialist – Gabrielle Moleta
Casting Director – Ginny Schiller CDG
Children’s Administrator -Judith Conyers
Jack Hardman, Annie Lewis, Sophie Roadnight, Robert Rowley, Sam Brown, Rosie Clark-Trew, William Davies, Gaia Mondadori, Callum Cronin, Gwithian Evans, Kate Ashman, Thomy Lawson.
Rose Burden, Millie Caney-Willis, Flora Clifton, Natasha Darrah, Will Earl, Anna Eddolls, Sophia Feltham, Joseph Jarnecki, Jessica King, Sophie Kisz, Sam Lefebvre, Sophia Nabi, Liberty Phelan, Aidan Porter, Jemma Rubens, Michael Thomas, Sofia Zanghirella, Rhea Norwood.
Tom Atkins, Georgina Carey, Poppy Chapman, Aislinn May Doyle, Jonny Fryer, KC Gardiner, Thomas Harrap, Arthur Hill, Erin Hyland, Robbie James, Bronwyn Lane, Indy Lewis, Lauren Murray, Mia Nias, Naomi Ormonde, Ruth Skirrow, Jessica Taussig, Caitlin Webb, Isabel Wyatt.
Eleanor Ambekar, Maisie Cashman, Sadie Connolly, Ryan Goldsmith, Jessica Hoare, Jessica Mason, Beija McDonald, Isabella McDowell, Ruby Plunkett, Emily Reeve, Freya Reynolds, Nell Ridyard, Tasmin Sarkany, Sam Shackleton, Charlotte Smith, Fedor Spektor, Lucy Tait, Jacob Towey.