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The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe @ The Bristol Hippodrome ★★★★★

A theatre spectacle of spellbinding beauty, which takes you on an adventure with its vibrant visuals and enthralling story telling.

By Milan Perera, Second Year English

It begs the question, ‘Why another adaptation of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe?’ - after numerous acclaimed TV adaptations, radio plays, theatre productions and a blockbuster movie franchise which grossed over $1.5 billion worldwide. But, this is not another adaptation, but a theatre spectacle of spellbinding beauty, which takes you on an adventure with its vibrant visuals and enthralling story telling.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was the first of C.S. Lewis' books to be written in his series, The Chronicles of Narnia, which has been a bestseller since its publication. The director, Michael Fentiman first read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when he was 12 years old and was mesmerised by the epic and complex saga that unfolded page after page.

In his theatre production, Fentiman has gone to great length to recapture the magic and fantasy enshrined in Lewis’s opus. A stage production is at a disadvantage in creating a fantasy story as it does not enjoy the state-of-the-art graphics which movie franchises have at their disposal. But not being fettered by these limitations, Fentiman creates a cascade of spine-tingling imagery with the aid of slick stage settings and unparalleled puppetry.

Brinkhoff-Moegenburg - ATG Media

The story revolves around four children (Lucy, Susan, Edmund and Peter) as they are evacuated to the countryside during the World War II. They are relocated to the house of an elderly professor who is a confirmed bachelor, and his affairs are run by a martinet housekeeper. One day one of the children, Lucy, comes across a wardrobe in the spare room. But it is no ordinary wardrobe but a magic portal to the fantasy land of Narnia ruled by an evil White Witch. The children stumble upon a magical land full of colourful and mystical creatures. The story moves at a breakneck pace with a series of slick stage settings. The unfolding drama is augmented with an ensemble of musicians of dazzling virtuosity which merges with the action seamlessly.

The four children: Lucy (Karise Yansen), Peter (Ammar Duffus), Susan (Robyn Sinclair) and Edmund (Shaka Kalokoh) are played to a tee, and they all ably capture the naivety and bravery of their characters, steadily driving the narrative. The contrast between Lucy’s dreamlike first trip into Narnia, where she is greeted by the kind-hearted Mr. Tumnus (Jez Unwin) who asks her into his warm cottage for tea and cakes, all the while watched over by an ethereal haloed cellist, and the menacing atmosphere as Edmund makes his own trip to Narnia adds a sense of foreboding.

Johnson Willis displays an unmatched versatility as a performer as he effortlessly switches between roles : from Professor Kirk, Father Christmas to Wise Owl. The hero of the saga, Aslan the lion, who is both majestic and magnanimous, is perfectly portrayed by Chris Jared.

Samantha Womack’s casting as the White Witch has been a soaring triumph as she perfectly captures the beguiling beauty, frostiness, and the regal presence of the Queen of Narnia. Her sweet demeanour is nothing but a sugar-coating to her raging malice. She plays it with poise and panache and delivers it in a way that will enchant and scare young audiences members at the same time. The first act closes with the song ‘Beware the Witch!’ commanding a hoard of mythical monsters to kill the resistance fighters.

The story of Lewis is a rich allegory of the ceaseless battle between Good and Evil with the underlying moral that Good always trumps Evil. The young audience members accompanied by their parents and teachers seemed to be spellbound by the action unfolding and conducted themselves admirably despite the length of the show.

This is no doubt an excellent introduction of theatre for young audiences with its mix of live musical theatre numbers and dynamic puppetry. The sheer scale of the production with a kaleidoscope of vibrant images coupled with a neatly crafted script is an adventure that one does not want to miss. It will bewitch and beguile the whole family.

Featured Image: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg - ATG Media

What did you think of this latest adaptation of Lewis' classic?