I bought tickets to see The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe as a Christmas present for my partner. He'd mentioned it in passing and since we never go to the theatre, I looked it up and thought I'd treat him (and hopefully me!) to front row seats. On the closing night, no less.
I know the story, of course, and have enjoyed reading the book and watching various adaptations on TV and at the cinema at different points in my life. I will admit, however, that I wasn't sure about a theatrical, musical version, especially one that I got the impression was aimed at the younger viewer, as a Christmas treat.
But what a treat it was! From the very first room-shaking bombs welcoming us darkly to the Blitz, to the tearful finale, I was absolutely transfixed. The music (composed by Steven Luke Walker) and singing were in turn, heart-warming and heartfelt, powerful and rousing. The acting was superb, and I found the child-like mannerisms of Ellie Kirk, Anna McGarahan, Andy Owens and Raymond Walsh as the Pevensies allowed me to suspend all disbelief in their real-life adult personas. That's not to single them out – the entire cast were spectacular, especially those in dual (triple, and even quadruple in the case of the lovely Nathan Lubbock Smith!) roles. The scene changes, which involved various straight-faced cast members moving the sparse, yet very effective, scenery, were beautifully and very efficiently executed.
The costumes and puppetry also deserve a mention. Aslan's mask and mane were beautiful, as was Alistair Barron's deep singing voice and measured, proud movements across the stage. And I mustn't forget the White Witch, played wickedly by Gemma Morsley (whose smiling photo in the programme is almost unrecognisable from her performance on stage).
I did question my choice of front row seats both before and during the show. Before, because I hadn't realised quite how cosy the theatre was (this was my first visit to The North Wall) and during because, well, the lovely Mr Beaver showered us with his ‘tea' at one point. And at another point I was distracted by the sword/dagger fights when they came rather close to us… I never imagined my Christmas treat would be so dangerous! There was also a lot of neck craning throughout, and I don't know how the actors coped with performing so close to their audience – it must be quite unnerving.
But all in all, I'm very glad my partner mentioned that he'd like to see it. I've always loved the ending of the story, witnessing how the children have grown up in Narnia, ruling as kings and queens, and then the bitter-sweetness of their return to the professor's house, and their childhood. It was clear during the finale that the cast were going to miss performing this show, and I found myself getting quite tearful experiencing their emotional farewell.
I look forward to visiting the theatre again (and not just for the creperie), and will also be keeping an eye on Creation Theatre and their future shows.
I saw Creation Theatre's production of The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe on its final night in a deservedly packed North Wall Theatre. It was an evening brimming with imagination, dragging us away from our present cares to an enchanted place.
The simple set was moved seamlessly around the stage by the actors to present doors, forests, a cafe and castle arches. The four Pevensie children clearly established their individual characters, and musically were a joy to listen to. Indeed the score throughout, which contained original songs, was generally enjoyable, particularly Mr Tumnus' lullaby and the duet between Susan and Lucy, and I would happily listen to it again at leisure. My only quibble was the song the witch sang at the Stone Table which did not seem dark or haunting enough for the depth of emotion required for that particular scene.
The non humans had to take a variety of roles - moving from reindeer to wolf to faun, or from Professor to beaver in challenging amounts of time. A slight disappointment was Aslan, whose vocal lines had a rich tone, but whose stance seemed awkward, and I wonder if in a theatre this up close his mask was used to its full effect.
Creation Theatre brought a moment of Christmas magic to a bleak January evening. If only I hadn't left buying my ticket so late I would happily return to Narnia (but perhaps I can always hope...)