11 November 2021

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe Review

"spectacular on every level"

The world of Narnia is magically brought back to life in a brilliant new staging helmed by director Michael Fentiman. 

The new production is based on the Sally Cookson Leeds Playhouse Production which opened back in 2017 and has begun its UK and Ireland tour at Curve before heading on the road with dates currently booking until April 2022. 

Photo by Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

The show flies by at a real pace with a running time of around 2 hours including an interval. Right from when the lights dim and we're transported to war-torn Britain as a train station is readying to send another load of evacuees to new destinations. The train scene itself is a visual delight - I don't want to drop any spoilers throughout this review, but once you'll see it you'll know what I mean.

It's at the station where we meet the four Pevensie children who are evacuated to Scotland to stay with Professor Kirk at his grand house. In the house, Lucy discovers an old wardrobe into which she enters and is transformed into the magical world of Narnia. Thus begins the prophecy fulfilling adventure as the four children enter the land in hope of defeating Jadis, The White Witch, and breaking the eternal winter that has bestowed the land. 

The story adapted from C.S. Lewis's beloved book is captured with such tremendous skill by all involved, visually throughout there are many moments that dazzle the young and the young at heart in the audience. Tom Paris has done a fabulous job with designing the sets and costumes based on original designs by Rae Smith. The world is brought alive with props, flying, magic, movement, snowfall, puppetry and it's such a treat to look at and get lost in. The costumes particularly for the various animals are distinguishing and striking. Lighting by Jack Knowles further enhances the effect of the piece. 

The puppetry is of the highest level. Aslan is brilliantly brought to life by 3 puppeteers (Oliver Grant, Oliver Bingham, and Shaun McCourt) alongside Chris Jared who plays the more humane speaking part of the character. Aslan's entrance alone is worth the ticket fee, the music swells as he appears with the grace and majesty that befits the stature of the powerful character. The puppet has been designed with a terracotta feel designed by Max Humphries with puppetry direction by Toby Olie.

The Pevensie children are impressively captured by Ammar Duffus's trustworthy Peter, Robyn Sinclair's motherly lovely Susan, Karise Yansen's adventurous Lucy. Shaka Kalokoh's Edmund goes on the biggest transformation from temptation from Jadis which separates him from his siblings to his redemption. 

Samantha Womack's commanding presence as Jadis will certainly unsettle some of the younger members of the audience, especially with her army around her. Womack gives a wicked turn here and makes for an excellent villain. Michael Ahomka-Lindsay is impactful as the evil Maugrim, the power he brings across and the fight scenes are outstanding (fights are director by Jonathan Holby).

Photo by Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

There are two-star turns from the Beavers. Sam Buttery is hilariously good as Mr. Beaver - the right amount of light relief without ever going over the top. Christina Tedders is beautifully lovely as Mrs. Beaver. The pair bounce off each other so well. They are both a joy to watch.

Jez Unwin is a Mr. Tumnus that you'd want to encounter if you were in Narnia. He brings such warmth to the role. There's a gorgeous song sung by him as he reminisces about spring gone by on his first encounter with Lucy. For me, it was a real highlight moment in a show full of unforgettable moments. 

Johnson Willis expertly portrays a few roles. From the wise yet slightly mysterious Professor Kirk to a fabulous Father Christmas as well as Wise Owl and White Mouse. Everything he does is great. He performs with so much heart and that comes across no matter what role he's playing. 

The production is underscored by the actor-musicians with a stunning score by Benji Bower and Barnaby Race. It fits perfectly throughout the moments, rising to the powerful crescendos or quietly adding a layer of texture to a scene or moment. The company plays the music with such high ability. Not only are they first-rate actors they all play musically a top-level too. A special mention to Rachel Dawson on the cello and double bass - her musicality is world-class and her work here is creates the most phenomenal sound.

Taking my critical hat off for a moment and just as myself as a theatre lover this production completely swept me along with it. I couldn't find a fault here, I could go on and on with the praise but I just urge you to see it yourself. For me, I felt like a child again lost in a magical world with these characters brought to life in the most fantastic way. I was no longer sat in Curve I was right there in Narnia. It's storytelling in the most transforming way and it's spectacular on every level.

Rating - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ theatrical storytelling at its most engaging and transporting. Outstanding.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe continues at Curve until Saturday 13th November. The production tours thereafter. Visit https://www.lionwitchonstage.com/ for full tour dates and booking information.

Photo by Brinkhoff/Moegenburg


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