A story as famous as The Lion, The Witch and Wardrobe can only mean two things: utter excitement and the expectation of a show that will make your childhood dreams come to life. Adrian Mitchell’s dramatization delightedly fulfilled the first but fell slightly short on the second.The story centres itself around four siblings – Peter, Susan, Edmond and Lucy – who discover a magical wardrobe that takes them through a kingdom whose ruler, the White Witch, had cast a curse on the land where it will be forever winter and never Christmas. Until Aslan, the lord of the wood, returned.
The set was magnificent, and one of the best I have seen, with layers of set being exposed to us as the story unfolded. Particularly the way the stone table was created and the magic behind the disappearance of Aslan was like watching a trick done by Dynamo. Aslan itself was a dream to watch. In fact, the highlight for me was his entrance, as the build-up had been so, that the realisation of what he looked like exceeded our imagination.
Cast wise, the ensemble delivered some amazing moments, principally the Beaver duo (Thomas Aldridge and Sophia Nomvete) who were absolutely hilarious and their comedic timing was on form all the way through, to the point of stealing the show. Peter and Susan played by Michael Lanni and Leonie Elliott respectively did well with portraying older siblings who were in charge and expressed different emotions very well. James Thackeray playing the brattish Edmond, delivered a safe performance with his acting like a rebellious child just as you would expect him too, but failed to impress or exceed expectations. Lucy didn’t look right, as she was just as tall if not taller than Leonie, which stretched credulity from the audience’s point of view who found it hard to sympathise with her troubles. Jo Servi who played Mr Tumnus and Maugrim, as well as other roles, was the excitement of the night for me, with the emotion he created as Mr Tumnus and the detail of his physicality with playing the wolf was outstanding, even to the degree of making the correct movement with his body to show the wolf breathing – fantastic!
As a whole, the performance was great, but there were moments where it was hard to watch, like the girls ‘riding’ Aslan, when they were not on him at all, talking too much, and all that was needed was an appropriate score that accompanied the voyage on Aslan, and maybe a few ‘Oh look a tree, and water’; the battle was not well executed, with bodies awkwardly dodging around the stage, and corny choreography that took away any tension; and the Ice Witch was too pantomimic where the acting lacked variety of expression, which meant she became too predictable to watch – a shame.The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe plays at The Birmingham Rep, 20 November 2015 – 16 January 2016
Reviewed by Alex Da Silva | @AlexMDaSilva