A heart-warming and breath taking retelling of a timeless classic, Sally Cookson’s take on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe brings the tale to life in a truly theatrical manner. Cookson has left no stone unturned when looking for ways to reinvent the well-loved Narnia, treating us to stunning musical numbers, physical theatre, audience participation and aerial acrobatics all rolled into one immersive masterpiece.
From the moment you enter the performance space you feel at one with the production; a costumed train attendant shows you to your seats, issuing you with a green ‘evacuation slip’, assuring you that they’ll be needed later. A classic jazz band plays softly in the auditorium, which has (for the first time at the West Yorkshire Playhouse) been transformed into a stage in the round, offering a wonderful view from all angles. Hundreds of little lanterns fill the air above the space, and the centre stage is overshadowed by a station clock and the famous Narnian lamppost. The space truly is a sight to behold, immersing you into their world of fast paced but excited anticipation during the evacuation of London’s wartime refugees. We are transported through the countryside through a beautiful piece of physical theatre from the ensemble, before being dropped into the wonderful world of Professor Kirke (Iain Johnstone) where we come to see Lucy Pevensie’s (Cora Kirk) trip into the magical world beyond the spare room’s wardrobe – Narnia. The festive fake snow and the loveable faun Mr Tumnus (Peter Caulfield) make Lucy feel right at home, and it’s not long before her disbelieving siblings find Narnia for themselves.
However, as we all know too well things are not all they seem in Narnia, and with the disappearance of Tumnus we are introduced to the formidable White Witch (Carla Mendonca) the self-proclaimed Queen of Narnia and the reason for its 100 year long winter. A booming voice and ice cold demeanour, paired with incredible costume designs create an elegant and hauntingly beautiful villain, which is perhaps what makes her all the more unnerving. Cue the sarcastic minions and giant floating cubes of the infamous Turkish Delight – it’s good, but not ‘sell your family out to the White Witch’ good; Edmund, (John Leader) we’re looking at you…
The mayhem that ensues leads us through some hilarious scenes with the wonderful animal ensemble, and culminates in the battle to end all; that of the Stone Table, where we see the mighty Aslan, (Iain Johnstone) rightful ruler of Narnia, sacrifice himself for the sake of the Pevensie children. The fight choreography by Rachel Bown-Williams & Ruth Cooper-Brown is visually incredible, with leaps and slides that are incredibly close to the real thing, pulling you into endless edge of the seat moments throughout. Spoiler alerts – Aslan later returns as golden and flowing and magical as ever complete with his giant Chinese dragon style, handcrafted lion which adds to the wonderful spectacle of the show. The witch is defeated, Narnia is restored to its beautiful, green self and the four Pevensie children are crowned the Kings and Queens of Narnia, ruling peacefully for many years. The production concludes with an utterly lovely song and dance number with the whole ensemble, and it brings the piece together beautifully.
This much-loved tale has definitely been done justice (and this redevelopment for the stage is definitely better than the film!). It’s a wonderfully festive production that the whole family can enjoy, and fall in love with the magic of Narnia all over again. 4/5
Review written by Hazel Hinchcliffe.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is currently showing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until Saturday 27th January 2018. For more information on the production, visit here…