Friday, 7 December 2007

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe - WYP

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis
Dramatised by Adrian Mitchell
West Yorkshire Playhouse 24 November – 26th January

Directed by Ian Brown
composed by Shaun
Review by Karen Naylor

The programme states that the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the West Yorkshire Playhouse is a revival of the original production first presented in 2004, but th
e performance that boasts a new cast, a new musical director, new arrangements for the songs and a completely different orchestration, was fresh and excelled from the very beginning.

When the audience first sees Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy about to depart by train for their evacuation to the country, dressed in perfect period costumes this, coupled with the war images projected upon moon-like spheres and on the inside of two open packing crates, creates an immediate immersion into the British war era. Joseph Pitcher as Peter and Laura Pitt-Pulford as Susan, are perfectly cast as the sensible older siblings. Unfortunately, Joseph tripped on the first step early on in the performance, taking off the front of an upper step and the skin of his knee at the same time but continued without a pause. Stefan Butler, as a believably sulky Edmund and Amy Brown’s thoroughly innocent and child-like Lucy, both turn in a captivating performance throughout- Lucy was particularly haunting when she sings outside the wardrobe after Edmund denounces her as a liar.

The set design was effective and worked extremely well. The moving stairs and tiny offset cave of Mr Tumnus were outstanding, as was the over-large, ethereal white-coated entrance to Narnia - when Lucy first enters Narnia and stands next to the lamppost and it begins to snow, it was particularly entrancing. It was, however, disappointing to lose the iconic image of the lamppost after this first appearance and not glimpse it again until right at the end when the adult Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, come upon it whilst chasing the wish-granting white stag.

The massive silver coats in the entrance to the Castle were magnificent whilst keeping the wardrobe theme.
Karen Mann turns in an entertaining performance in her double guise as Mrs Macready and Mrs Beaver, as does Neil Salvage as Professor Kirk/Father Christmas. Howard Coggins is remarkable as Mr Beaver with his inventive one-liners and the Beavers song with the children is particularly hilarious. Clare Foster as the White Witch turns in an admirable performance which is more regal than evil as does Ben Sewell as Grumpskin, but David McGranaghan as Maugrim almost stole the show with his superb stage presence and it was almost a shame that Peter dispensed with him so soon.

The White Witch spell effects were well-timed and executed and she was thoroughly convincing when the excellent Louis Decosta Johnson as Aslan strangles her. His magical disappearance from the cracked stone table and reappearance at the back of the theatre amazed adults and children alike.
This is a wonderful show for every age in which all are left with the feeling that they have lived through the performance right along with the actors and are left with a lingering appreciation of a job well done.

Photos by Robert Workman - Top: Amy Brown (Lucy) & Danny Seldon (Mr Tumnus) Bottom: Clare Foster (White Witch) & Louis Decosta Johnson (Aslan) with Ensemble
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