The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is in every child’s storybook repertoire (recently aided by Disney’s popular film adaptations of the novels). Very much a family show, with some clever visual effects and ideas, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe seems to meld the world of pantomime, the puppetry of War Horse and visual ideas from the musical version of Lord of the Rings.
This is not a show that should be watched with solely adult eyes; it appeals to the child inside all of us. It is not a piece that focuses on script, songs or even individual performances. It looks to entertain and seems more apt a to be billed as a spectacle or indeed something almost circus like (helped by the tent structure that creates the Threesixty Theatre). Various performers use different devices to appear as trees, reindeers and wolves (which showcases some strong physicality from an energetic cast). There is also the use of height in some flying sections but this is mainly showcased as Lucy falls into Narnia through fur coats that fall from the ceiling.
Immediately you are struck by the energy and exuberance of Rebecca Benson, playing Lucy. Benson gives an incredibly strong performance that seems to find truth even in the exaggerated style of the piece, and holds the audience’s attention and interest throughout the show. Her ability to bring genuine warmth and wonder to the character is really quite something. I also enjoyed performances from Philip Labey as Peter, David Rubin as Maugrim, Miltos Yerolemou as the comical Ginabrikk and Audrey Brisson (whose beautiful singing voice haunts the piece). This is a show that requires energy and vigor from the ensemble and they do not disappoint, especially the actor/musicians who appeared continually throughout the piece and showcased great skill and ability.
The first act seemed slightly long-winded to me with the ever promising appearance of Aslan not coming to fruition until the second act. Aslan (voiced by David Suchet and puppeteered by Christian From, Jane Leaney and Will Lucas) is a brilliant creation. Although Tom Scutt’s Aslan brings to mind Joey (the horse) in War Horse, it really is something quite lovely to behold and the puppeteers work beautifully to create the feline movements that capture the essence of the animal (here created from bark and leaves). Aslan made the show for me (having not been too be wowed by the projections, fanciful costumes, etc.) and is something that will leave both adults and children alike in awe, enjoying the dulcet tones of David Suchet.
There are faults with this show and they mainly lie in the obvious places, but this is a family piece and something that brings another interesting aspect to a series that already holds wonder for so many children.
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is booking until September. For more information and tickets, see the website.