Quick Change Review: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Tour)
★★★ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a playground for imagination and wonder.
Director, Michael Fentiman, has carefully crafted a multitude of worlds to be explored by adults and children alike.
We start in London, where we meet the big-eyed Pevensie children; brave and adventurous Lucy (Karise Yansen), the sensible and orderly Peter (Ammar Duffus), wise and calm Susan (Robyn Sinclair) and the influenced and mischievous Edmund (Shaka Kalohoh) being evacuated from the war to Aberdeenshire. They clasp at suitcases for support and squabble with one another as siblings do.
Lodging with the eccentric Professor Kirk (Johnson Willis), when exploring their new home they tumble across a land stuck in perpetual winter, Narnia. Here they learn of their duty as humans to break the prophecy and the ruling of the White Witch (Samantha Womack) to relieve fear from the kind-natured citizens of Narnia.
It’s a production that is designed to feed the curious. Masterful lighting, set, and costume combine to create sublime scenes - from the gentle warmth of Mr Tumnus’s hollow that shelters Lucy from the gentle snowfall with its wicker furniture and stacks of books, to the dark elegance of the professors home with gold adornments and clock motifs. The stage is a floor to ceiling circus arena for its highly talented task to dance and play.
Tiny details capture the eye, like a carefully placed mat for the much adored old cat, Schrodinger, growing flowers, a lamppost appearing from a piano and Turkish delight as fluffed as clouds.
Other details are left entirely to the imagination of the audience member and their hopes, dreams and desires. Awe-inspiring puppetry gives freedom to fill the gaps and envision your own design. The wolves and skeletal creatures are frightening in appearance and movement - dynamic and powerful.
In contrast, woodland creatures are rustic in heart, but fantastical in nature, played by a brilliant cast of musician actors who use mystical folk song to show patriotism to their home and hope for it. Mr Tumnus’ solo and their collective ode to Narnia are stunning, but others feel forgettable when away from the charm of the land.
Over time, you crave the drama from the story that sometimes feel an afterthought.
With all of its visual charm, the script itself has slipped. The Pevensie children, though delightfully acted, speak largely in request and exclamation. Aslan’s grand entrance, death, and resurrection, plays for all of 30 minutes, which feels a great shame to the pride of Chris Jared who is enthrallingly emotive to watch alongside the puppeteers. The White Witch, though demanding and fearsome, feels stiff and sculpted with her trickery only superficial.
Under the layers of silk, fur, magic and illusions, the story itself is rushed with no time to swell in your heart.
As a result, the final battle scenes lack the triumphant climax that is craved and leaves you feeling a bit left out in the cold.
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe tours the UK throughout 2022.