Story telling at its very best, this fantastical production transports you into the land of Narnia in a 5 star adventure.
Following many successful adaptations on both TV and Radio, this Leeds Playhouse production of the classic C S Lewis book is a massive show packed full of wonderful imagery, stunning props and an amazing cast.
Director Michael Fentiman has created a truly unique experience; right from the very beginning as the Pevensie children are evacuated from war torn London to the highlands of Scotland we are immediately enveloped in a world where nothing seems exactly as it should be, a perfect approach to Lewis’ land.
The 4 leads, Peter (Ammar Duffus), Edmund (Shaka Kalokoh), Lucy (Karise Yansen) and Susan (Robyn Sinclair) are sent to live with eccentric Professor Kirk (Johnson Willis) and his housekeeper Mrs Macready (Samantha Womack).Exploring his rambling house they come upon the wardrobe, through which first Lucy, then Edmund and finally all 4 children travel to the land of Narnia.
Exploring this new land, they encounter no end of mystical creatures who are currently under a 100 year spell of perpetual winter, cast by the evil White Witch (Samantha Womack).Samantha plays the Witch with unnerving, understated menace – there is no over the top pantomime style evil, more a simple, quiet certainty that she will win. As the children befriend the Narnians they realise that their coming has been foretold in many stories, ‘Sons of Adam’ and ‘Daughters of Eve’ being revered as saviours to help rid the land of the self-appointed queen.Assisting Aslan The Lion (Chris Jared and an amazing walking puppet) the 4 humans adopt their new personas and thus the final battle scene is set.
Using ensemble members to play both background humans and the creatures of Narnia, complete with all the instruments and percussion makes this totally immersive – there are no lines of delineation between traditional on and off stage elements. Fight scenes between animals are wonderfully choreographed by Jonathan Holby while Toby Olie and Max Humphries excel in their puppetry.
The key to this whole production is imagination – the set design is brilliantly simple, presenting an almost blank canvas upon which designers Rae Smith and Tom Paris paint the fantasy. The transitions between the human world and Narnia are wonderfully etheric; swirling curtains of silk aid scene changes while the introduction of new characters is so organic they seem to grow from the stage.
A number of original songs (by Benji Bower and Barnaby Race) present the characters with the avenue to expand on their backstories without detracting from the flow of the story while the incidental score heightens the fantasy even further.
Make no mistake, this may be a children’s tale but this is far from a pantomime production; it is rich, complex and multi-layered, presenting as much space for the audience to do their own imagining as it does the visual smorgasbord on stage.
More than worthy of 5 stars, this production sets a new level of excellence to which any and every storyteller should attempt to reach.