The Chronicles of Narnia, written by C S Lewis, is a firm classic – adapted for radio, television, film, and stage. The series is set in the fictional realm of Narnia, a fantasy world of magic, mythical beasts, and talking animals. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the first book written in the series, has been brought to the stage in this latest exciting and vibrant production, directed by Michael Fentiman, currently showing at various venues across the UK. Based on the original production by Sally Cookson, it is a visual feast, with Fentiman capturing the magic of Narnia and its fantastical creatures wonderfully.
The story follows the four Pevensie siblings who are evacuated to the countryside during World War II and stumble upon a magical land in their new home. As the audience enters and takes their seats, a soldier sits at the piano at the centre of the stage and quietly plays an array of 1940s melodies, and as the show begins, the music changes to the upbeat and passionate wartime anthem We’ll Meet Again. Shortly after, the audience is introduced to Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter at the busy London railway station while they await their transport to Scotland. The children played by Anmar Duffus, Shaka Kalokoh, Robyn Sinclair, and Karise Yansen carry the show effortlessly – their on-stage presence and chemistry allow the audience to fully believe and firmly cheer for them throughout the show.
Once in Scotland, the children try and find their feet in their new home, however, while exploring the house, Lucy stumbles upon an old wardrobe, which she decides to enter, and what she discovers on the other side is truly otherworldly and so our adventure in Narnia begins. The Pevensie children help Aslan, a talking lion, save Narnia from the evil White Witch, who has reigned over the land for a century of perpetual winter, with no Christmas.
Elements of violence and fright are scaled back to accommodate the younger audience, though the production does have a sense of macabre and mystery throughout. Samatha Womack does a magnificent job of bringing to life the White Witch, carrying a sense of terror every time she enters the stage, but ensuring that the younger audience can still enjoy her performance without being too scared to look. Womack remains strong, reserved, and confident as the self-proclaimed Queen of Narnia until later on when she meets her end. The incredible costumes designed by Rae Smith and aerial effects heighten the sheer power that she carries. The movement and choreography of this production are truly a sight to see as it elevates the experience and magic required for such a show. This is an impressive adaptation and Michael Fentiman manages to truly capture the imagination of the audience with his vision of the familiar world of Narnia.
Writer: C S Lewis, Director: Michael Fentiman, Composer: Benji Bower & Barnaby Race. Based on original directed and devised by Sally Cookson.
With grateful thanks to Joanna Zuchowska for this review.