Updated: Sep 25, 2022
“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was one of my favourite books when I was little. I remember my year 4 teacher, Miss Wilson, decorated the reading corner to look like Narnia, with a lamppost and fake snow. And I was lucky enough to be allowed to borrow her special hardback collection of the Narnia books – a huge privilege!
So, of course, when I found out a play of the novel was coming to Nottingham Theatre Royal, I had to book tickets. I think it would be fair to say that Paula and I went with fairly low expectations. Promo pictures had shown that the costumes were more understated and perhaps not as exciting as we had anticipated (Mr and Mrs Beaver were humans with snow shoes on their backs!). I have to say, though, that the play exceeded our expectations and was absolutely thrilling from start to finish.
To say that I loved this play doesn’t do it justice. From the moment the Pevensie children (Ammar Duffus as Peter, Robyn Sinclair as Susan, Shaka Kalokoh as Edmund and Karise Yansen as Lucy) boarded their train to escape war-torn London (suitcases lit up to represent the train carriages in one of many clever transitions) to the moment when the four children stood as Kings and Queens of Narnia, victorious over the White Witch, we were both completely enthralled.
The play was accompanied by music and singing throughout, with the actors also serving as the band, playing instruments whilst also playing their parts. Christina Tedders as Mrs Beaver played the violin, whilst Johnson Willis as Professor Kirk also played the double bass. This music created some incredibly magical moments and it was hard to believe that everything – music, dance, singing, acting – was being done by the same bunch of actors.
The first transition to Narnia saw the doors burst off the wardrobe and fly across the stage, as fur coats sprang to life and the lamppost grew from the top of the piano. It gave me chills. Mr Tumnus Jez Unwin), Mr and Mrs Beaver (Sam Buttery and Tedders), the White Witch (Samantha Womack) and Maugrim the wolf (Michael Ahomka-Lindsay) were all fantastically realised. But, of course, the best was saved ‘til last. Aslan, represented as both human (Chris Jared) and as an enormous puppet, brought a special energy to the stage. It truly felt as though we were in the presence of royalty.
The play was also filled with lots of imaginative moments to keep children (and us!) entertained, with “birds” flying on wires, spectacular sword fighting in the final battle and even a man made of Turkish Delight who tormented Edmund!
The first play I’ve seen this year, and let’s just say, it was a strong start. Absolutely amazing – if you get a chance, book a ticket, no matter your age!
“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is currently touring the UK – see here for more details: https://www.lionwitchonstage.com/
Tom Morley, February 2022