Mike Ponsford and Ginny Brown’s production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was a magical trip through the eyes of children living through the Second World War.
This stark, minimalist adaptation brought the mysterious world of Narnia to life built from the debris of war. Ammunition boxes, crates and chairs piled together like a barricade became each location giving the story a dream-like quality and maintaining a high octane pace. This was very much an ensemble production with each cast member playing multiple roles, ever-present at the edge of the action, framing the whole piece with a child-like innocence. There were some outstanding performances from all involved creating clear and sharp characterisations of Narnia’s famous and much loved inhabitants.
Lucia Imi and Sam Wilbur controlled the action as the Narrators, grown up versions of Peter and Lucy. They were commanding yet playful as they pushed the story forward, arguing over the details as siblings might, but maintaining a great sense of connection throughout. Sophie Powell as Lucy was outstanding, creating a real sense of childish wonder as she discovered the world beyond the wardrobe. Quinta Thomson and Giles Edwards were excellent as the older, more responsible siblings carrying the weight of the family on their shoulders. Artie Nicholson as Edmund gave a fantastic performance as the moody younger brother who was tempted by Charlotte Southgate’s incredibly evil White Witch. Charlotte’s evil plans were ably supported by an insane ‘Driver’ played by Clara Hutchinson and a malevolent Maugrim played with relish by Tabitha Reed. The mystical creatures of Narnia were brought to life through physical characterisation supported by effective items of costume. Wilf Adams as Mr. Tumnus was a humorous, bumbling wreck of nerves compared to the bombastic Mr. Beaver played by Seb White. Honor Mills as Mrs. Beaver brought a great sense of warmth and courage to the role as they joined the children in battle against the armies of winter. At the centre of the story is Aslan, played with enormous authority and power by Xanthe Smith and supported by a range of good creatures such as Harry Hall-Smith’s courageous Leopard. Bella Brown’s fierce Mrs. Macready was the perfect antidote to Jack Elgar’s mysterious and eccentric professor providing the counterpoint in the real world to The White Witch and Aslan. They were ably supported by a group of well-meaning maids played with conviction by Eva Stuart, Georgia Carss and Maddie Ruoss. Scarlet Longfield took on a number of roles including the Mother having to send her children away as evacuees at the beginning of the story. Seeing her return at the end of the story as a narrator tied together the real world and Narnia brilliantly and gave a great sense of unity to the evening. Francesca Coles’ Father Christmas was another festive highlight along with Tatiana Metcalfe’s rescue of Edmund from the clutches of the White Witch. Harry Schupham’s aggressive wolf was no match for Peter and his slightly drunk Fox at the beginning of spring was a comic delight.
This was, however, a performance that belonged to the whole ensemble slipping easily between characters and showing a great versatility and team-work. The mysterious world of Narnia was brought to life by a dizzying array of sound, lighting and costume staged within Paul Cox’s stark white arena.
Congratulations to all involved in this magical and imaginative production.
Head of Drama