The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Thu 5th December 2013

reviews

Anwen Jones

at 12:37 on 6th Dec 2013

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‘Who doesn’t love a good story-to-stage adaption at Christmas time?’ was the question on my mind when I entered the Redgrave Theatre to watch Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s Christmas production of C.S. Lewis’ family classic ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.’ Packed with adventure, innocence and the occasional fawn, it is a story that has endured the past 6 decades, entertaining both children and adults alike – the perfect backdrop for a festive theatre production.

The stage certainly invoked a magical atmosphere. Two magnificent paintings hanging from the ceiling to the floor stood opposite each other on either side of the space depicting two children riding on the back of a unicorn, enclosing a cleverly constructed set which gave the impression of a 3D room with panelled walls.

Opening with the chilling sound of bomb sirens and a sweeping searchlight which lit up members of the audience (much to the delight of the school group that were the particular onlookers on this occasion), we were immediately transported to the Blitz on London during WW2. However, the trauma was fleeting as four figures, the unmistakable Pevensie children who are to become the heroes of the story, appear centre stage before being rushed off to the wonderfully mysterious home of Professor Digory Kirke in the countryside. From there on in, the play takes us on a c‘Who doesn’t love a good story-to-stage adaption at Christmas time?’ was the question on my mind when I entered the Redgrave Theatre to watch Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s Christmas production of C.S. Lewis’ family classic ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.’ Packed with adventure, innocence and the occasional fawn, it is a story that has endured the past 6 decades, entertaining both children and adults alike – the perfect backdrop for a festive theatre production.

The stage certainly invoked a magical atmosphere. Two magnificent paintings hanging from the ceiling to the floor stood opposite each other on either side of the space depicting two children riding on the back of a unicorn, enclosing a cleverly constructed set which gave the impression of a 3D room with panelled walls.

Opening with the chilling sound of bomb sirens and a sweeping searchlight which lit up members of the audience (much to the delight of the school group that we the particular onlookers on this occasion), we were immediately transported to the Blitz on London during WW2. However the occasion was fleeting as four figures, the unmistakable Pevensie children who are to become the heroes of the story, appear centre stage before being rushed off to the wonderfully mysterious home of Professor Digory Kirke in the countryside. From there on in, the play takes us on a roller-coaster ride through fast-paced action, betrayed loyalties, family values and a whole lot of festive fun.

It appears that the whole cast delighted in the fantasy of C.S.Lewis’ story, bringing nonsensical characters like fawns, talking beavers, enormous giants and fat dwarfs to life with such vibrancy that the audience were forced to suspend their disbelief and enter the world of Narnia completely. They were enthusiastic, dedicated and hopelessly entertaining in every scene, striking a perfect balance between considered, measured acting and a touch of festive joy.

Particular stand-out performances came from Nicola Taggart as the brief but hilariously brilliant ‘Mother Christmas’ and Perry Moore, whose gnashing, gnarled, gruesome portrayal of ‘Maugrim’ the evil Head of Secret Police was so effective that your eyes were drawn to him every time he entered the stage.

In terms of the musical aspects of the play, the results were more of a mixed-bag. Although most songs were good, including my favourites ‘Turkish Delight’ and the short Aslan song sang beautifully by Monica Nash as Mrs Beaver, I found that just as the audience started getting into them they were over. In addition, although the vocal ability of the cast as a whole was superb, some individuals on this particular performance were lacking strength and power in some of the solos. Having said this, the school children were still completely taken in by the voices on stage, and every ensemble piece was performed at a very high standard - I only wish there were more group songs in the first Act.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s performance. I would have liked a little more in the way of set and lighting to evoke the Narnian winter at the beginning of the show, but the whole cast brought the image to life with their commitment to their roles that by the end, I was truly engulfed in the land of the whispering trees and magical lions. Even minor details such as the nosey, flittering visitors to the house were executed with true believability, demonstrating the calibre of the actors and the thoroughness of the director, Jenny Stephens. It is certainly a wonderful Christmas show to watch with the family this winter, and, were it not already sold out, I’d urge you to buy a ticket straight away!

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