The alternative festive presentation has become a firm fixture in the Royal and Derngate calendar, offering a more theatrical option for those who taste may not run to the booing and hissing of traditional panto. But that’s not to say there’s any less enjoyment to be had in the intimate, cosy surroundings of the Royal auditorium and this stage adaptation of the CS Lewis children’s classic The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
The sheer scope of the tale, from war-torn London to the battle-scarred plains of Narnia itself, means there’s a massive challenge of scale facing director Dani Parr and her huge team of actors, musicians and supporting community cast. The fact that every location, creature and dramatic event has the power to transport the audience just about anywhere says much for the success of meeting that challenge.
Theresa Heskins’s faithful script and James Atherton’s unmemorable music score may never quite catch the magic, but there’s a whole range of skills, talents and abundant imagination on show to carry it off instead. The four ‘children’ at the heart of the story are superbly played by Kyle McPhail, Alice O’Connell, Peter McGovern and Hayley Ellenbrook. This utterly believable quartet take you by the hand and lead you into the winter-stricken wonderland through the wardrobe, where their adventures are pacily played out on a versatile if complicated set designed by Jess Curtis.
Georgina White gives us a fine, over-the-top White Witch and there are some delightful animal cameos – particularly Mr and Mrs Beaver (Matthew J Henry and Louise Shuttleworth) – while other cast members also play a plethora of instruments under the capable guidance of musical director Zara Nunn.
It’s endlessly inventive, full of action and enthusiasm, and if the whole doesn’t quite weave the magical spell of the original book there’s no shortage of entertainment value in a highly enjoyable couple of hours or so.
- MICHAEL DAVIES
Another review has come in from a family (Natalie and her two children - Chloe and Harry)
This is a wonderful version of one of our favourite books. All the performances were excellent but we all felt that Hayley Ellenbrook really stands out as the youngest sibling, Lucy.
The set is particularly creative, moving seemlessly between the Professor's House and the wintery Narnia - no small achievement in a theatre as intimate as the Royal. The costumes are a source of constant delight - creating some memorable woodland creatures and a magnificent Aslan.
This is a truly magical evening suitable for all ages - a great production with music, drama and wonderful performances. Thoroughly recommended.