with enchantment and wonder, Theresa Heskins’ adaptation of C S Lewis’s
The four actors playing the children inhabit their roles with a commendable sincerity; their earnestness ensures the story is so engaging.
The level of creativity and care behind this production is evident in the gorgeous programmes. Designed to resemble books, they come complete with a bookmark and stickers featuring illustrations of the inhabitants Narnia. This child-friendly merchandise serve as a great introduction to the theatre, compared in the programme notes to a kind of magical wardrobe. The bookmark is also a lovely touch, encouraging the young audience to go home and read CS Lewis’ original novel if they have not already.
The production begins in a whirlwind of air raid sirens and trains, cleverly evoked via fast motion acting. The show initially whisks along, clearly keen to get Lucy to Narnia as soon as possible, although not before effectively evoking the realities of Second World War Britain.
The four actors playing the children inhabit their roles with a commendable sincerity; their earnestness ensures the story is so engaging. Claire-Marie Seddon plays Lucy – who first finds the way to Narnia through a wardrobe – with compassion and wide-eyed innocence. Charlotte Miranda Smith is every inch the reassuring and level-headed older sister and James Rottger is well-cast as the charismatic and noble eldest Peter. As middle sibling Edmund, Cristian Ortega has the most interesting role to play with: it is Edmund’s betrayal of his family that causes the story’s near-tragedy. Ortega subtly shows the motives behind this betrayal and Edmund’s growing sense of horror as he realises what he has done.
Shirley Robinson dresses the four children in appropriately realistic 1940s costumes, which cleverly evoke Pauline Bayes’ original 1950 illustrations. The leads are well supported by Ben Onwukwe, who successfully portrays Aslan’s innate courage and goodness. The only weaker link is Pauline Knowles’ White Witch, who, whilst undoubtedly frightening, does not quite portray the role’s required regal coldness.
The Lyceum’s show is not afraid to explore the dark side to Lewis’s text: the White Witch is a real threat and her servant Maugrim (Ewan Donald, who also plays Mr Tumnus) is particularly terrifying. The show depicts scenes of real peril, which, whilst mostly well balanced with the comic and the magical, were still too much for some of the young audience. Several children in the rows infront of me had to leave in certain scenes. The Lyceum has said the show is suitable for all, but parents with children under six or so should exercise caution.
Nevertheless, the majority of the audience in the Lyceum’s auditorium were entranced by the proceedings. Andrew Panton’s fast-paced direction, Becky Minto’s gorgeous set designs and Claire McKenzie’s musical direction help ensure The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is an enchanting, veritable Christmas treat, sure to delight the whole family.