There have been many adaptations of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but Stephen Luke Walker’s evocative and beautiful melodies bring fresh life to this adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s popular children’s classic. Right from the offset, Creation Theatre’s production delightfully captures the audience’s imagination. The opening montage of apprehensive evacuees juxtaposed with the gruelling Second World War battle scene vividly sets the show in its historical context. The rest of the show seamlessly flits between this real world and the land of Narnia, taking the captivated audience with it.
The darker elements of the book are bravely and brilliantly brought out by director Charlotte Conquest: Mr Tumnus (Nathan Lubbock Smith) lulling Lucy to sleep is suitably disturbing and incredibly well-executed, while the statues in the White Witch’s house are befittingly eerie and Gemma Morsley depicts a terrifying witch. Interspersed with the darker moments of the show are some well-received lighter elements, such as Edmund’s (Andy Owens) witty one-liners and the jovial characters of Mr and Mrs Beaver (Michael Diana and Chloe Taylor).
Children are integral to the story and the actors’ portrayals of the Pevensie children are spectacular and utterly believable. The beauty of their performance is in the detail, from the way Lucy (Anna McGarahan) sips her tea with Mr Tumnus to the boys’ bickering and Susan’s (Ellie Kirk) consequent chastisement. The youngest Pevensie child takes centre stage in the story – she is the first to encounter Narnia and shows the largest capacity for faith, not just in ‘unbelievable’ ideas but also in people. McGarahan faultlessly embodies the character of Lucy, demonstrating grace and forgiveness, first towards Mr Tumnus and then to her family, charmingly exemplified by being the first to embrace Edmund after his betrayal. McGarahan’s stunning voice visibly moves the audience on numerous occasions, particularly during ‘To Turn Time Back’, her emotional duet with Susan on Aslan’s deathbed.
The Christ-like figure of Aslan, who willingly lays down his life on the stone table, is powerfully portrayed by Alistair Barron. He magnificently commandeers his lion puppet-head, and his characterisation and formidable voice bring Walker’s remarkable songs to life. The choreography is simple but effective, as is the minimalist use of furniture – the doors of the professor’s house doubling up as trees works surprisingly well and the lamppost does not disappoint! While some of the puppets are, at times, distracting, their use in Mr Tumnus’s house is magical and enchanting. Some of the costumes are reminiscent of a school production, but they add to the child-like nature of the show and further enhance the comedic characters of Mr and Mrs Beaver.
The somewhat Brechtian elements of the play, such as the cast running through the audience and working as stage hands, enables the audience to reflect on the meaning and significance of the story. C.S Lewis himself would likely have approved – his retelling of the Christian story was not just to be enjoyed, but also to point people to a deeper truth.
This spectacular production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is not your average Christmas production, but with its outstanding music and gifted cast, a ticket should be on everyone’s Christmas list this year.
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is playing at the North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford until 4 January. For more information and tickets, see the Creation Theatre website.