theatre: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Shortly after Christmas I took a trip to Oxford’s North Wall Arts Centre to see their production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. It was a show I’d been hoping I could see and thankfully while I was at home for Christmas the drive to Oxford was easily done!

I’d heard only good things about this show from friends who had seen it, saying it was the ideal show to see at Christmas that held an essence of Christmas-time theatre without being a pantomime. Having heard some songs from the show at Jonathan Reid Gealt’s collaboration concert in September also, I  knew the quality of music in this show was going to be that of a high class anyway.

Of course while waiting for the show to start I thought “How are they going to do this?”, it’s a task and a half to transport audiences to other worlds even with a huge budget and giant theatres, but in the relatively intimate space of the North Wall these weren’t options at hand.

At the back and above the stage was a balcony with stairs on both sides leading up to it which were used in many of the scenes to show movement through locations mainly, with minimalist moving tree-like cut outs acting as doors in the scenes of the house as well as trees in the land of Narnia.

The four children of the show were played wonderfully with Anna McGarahan as Lucy, Raymond Walsh as Peter, Ellie Kirk as Susan and Andy Owens as Edmund who all captured the essence of the siblings removed from their home during the chaos of the Blitz and discovering new lands.

Multiple roles were covered by some of the performers throughout the show such as Chloe Taylor playing both the Mrs. Pevensie and Mrs. Beaver, Michael Diana as the Professor and Mr. Beaver, Gemma Morsley as Mrs Macready and the White Witch, and Nathan Lubbock Smith playing Mr Tumnus plus ensemble roles, and Alistair Barron as Aslan but also the evacuation officer and the surprise visit from Father Christmas in the show.

The strength in this considerably small cast was remarkable, and they all pulled the show together helping in the magic of Narnia to translate onto this small space with ease. The creative team made innovative use of the space they had with the set gently forcing the audience to use their imagination whether young or old. Many know the story of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe regardless and they stuck closely to the original so the visuals were emphasised within the imagination that the superb cast and gorgeous music created.

Steven Luke Walker wrote and composed the music for the show and did a stupendous job in bring a contemporary edge to this classic tale, he really is to be commended for intricate compositions that were so perfect for this production.

The costumes in this show were also of a superb calibre, the Beaver costumes were genius, with the White Witch looking incredibly fierce and I was absolutely in awe of the costume they’d created for Aslan, it was so impressive. Another aspect of the show I really enjoyed was the puppetry included in the storytelling within the narrative as it emphasised even more the imagination encapsulated in the show.

Certainly it was the show to see over the Christmas period that was perfect for families without taking the pantomime route, both my mum and I thoroughly enjoyed it especially with it being in such a gorgeous innovative venue! I’m pleased it had such a successful run with positive reviews as it certainly deserved it.

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