The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the Gillian Lynne theatre – ‘Incredible’ ‘Fascinating’ ‘Amazing’
I wanted to see this after my 9 year old son read the book and loved it. He loved it so much he went on to read all of the Narnia chronicles. I knew he would enjoy it but wondered what he would think of it on the stage. It was also my 7 year old’s first experience of the theatre but he hadn’t read the book- what would he think of the theatre and would he understand the story? So it is fair to say that we travelled to the theatre with some trepidation and high expectations!
It did not disappoint. The Gillian Lynne Theatre is the original home of ‘Cats’. It is a relatively small theatre. The audience are close to the stage so it feels intimate- you are fully immersed in the show in front of you because you feel so close to it. The show began with a lone musician playing the piano onstage which led to an ensemble piece placing the play firmly within its context: WW2 and the evacuation of children to the country. Refreshingly all 4 Pevensie children are of Black origin, and are wholly realistic from the start. Edward is brilliantly petulant, Peter is ‘brave’ according to my 9 year old, Susan is at turns matronly and vulnerable and Lucy is plucky. The musicians are also characters, dancers and puppeteers. In the first 5 minutes we were all bowled over- and the show continued to amaze.
The staging is so impressive with a mixture of clever illusions such as the transformation between the Scottish manor house and Narnia, as well as the use of props: Narnia lamppost concealed within the piano for example, or the spinning wardrobe full of furs. We were not expecting songs or choreography, a walking turkish delight robot or the ingenious use of machinery for the White witch’s sleigh. That brings me to the White Witch. Samatha Womack spends relatively little time on stage but her impact is huge; she is at points menacing, beguiling and just plain wicked. She is so watchable, her costume and make-up spot-on and her end of first act finale is spectacular. Her evil henchman- Maugrim and the other creatures are ‘scary’ and create a menacing atmosphere, but also play a comedic turn when spring arrives. That was my 9 year old’s favourite scene!
I think what is so clever is the plethora of roles many of the cast play. It is a true ensemble piece. Samantha Womack is also an indomitable Mrs Macready with a very believable Scottish accent. Johnson Willis is the master of reinvention as the professor and an unforgettable Father Christmas. His accompanying ‘reindeer’ achieved the biggest laugh of the evening, whilst our family favourite was Julian Holt whose Mr Beaver and a hilarious maid was both comedic and endearing. It is such a talented cast.
I must finish with a word about Aslan. The hero of the plot is a spell-binding puppet brought to life by actors both within and alongside the puppet. It is accompanied by a male actor-Chris Jared- who is the voice of Aslan dressed impressively in furs. Aslan dominates the stage but at times you forget about the puppetry and are taken in by the illusion of this powerful King who has come to defeat the White Witch to save Narnia. The illusion of the deaths of both Aslan and the White Witch were deftly handled.
This is an excellent production. The plot is understandable to those who don’t know it, but also magical enough for those who are experts. But a warning for younger viewers: Mm 7 year old did say that ‘it was scary at points’.The staging is impressive and unexpected and the cast are multi-talented. For us watching our boys sheer pleasure and excitement as they witnessed the story unfold was unforgettable. This is a must-see production.
Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.