Creation Theatre Company - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
6th December 2013 to 4th January 2014.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Northern winter delight
CS Lewis classic marks 50th anniversary of his death
Creation Theatre: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, at the North Wall arts centre, Oxford, until January 4
This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the death of CS Lewis, author of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It is therefore fitting that Creation Theatre Company gained the rights to the novel, in a version adapted and scored by Steven Luke Walker, because Oxford was the primary home of Lewis. It's a vibrant musical with terrific numbers that propel the narrative forward effectively. The tunes are hummable, with genres ranging from pop to boogie woogie and marches.
Director Charlotte Conquest uses the intimate space at the North Wall with real flair. She co-opts the balcony as an acting arena, and when the White Witch (Gemma Morsley) emerges high above the stage wearing huge white drapes, she is seemingly pulled on a sleigh by reindeer at ground level (design, Neil Irish).
The story begins with the four Pevensie children experiencing an air raid during the Second World War. This is an exciting scene, with pinpoint choreographic movement from the cast. Leaving their mother behind in London, they arrive at the country residence of a quixotic professor (Michael Diana) and his sinister housekeeper, Mrs Macready (Morsley, again).
It is the youngest girl, Lucy (Anna McGarahan) who discovers the land of Narnia when she explores the wardrobe. The street light that marks the boundary between Narnia and the children's world casts a yellow glow over a snowy landscape. It is just right. Lucy encounters a kindly but duplicitous faun, Mr Tumnus (Nathan Lubbock Smith) who takes her back to his Hobbit-like home for tea.
Soon afterwards, her brother Edmund (Andy Owens) follows her into Narnia. He is captured by the White Witch and bribed with Turkish delight, a delicacy which must have been hard to obtain during the war.
When Peter (Raymond Walsh) and Susan (Ellie Kirk) join their siblings in Narnia, the story becomes one of prophesy fulfilment, sword and sorcery battles and good versus evil.
There is an inventive use of puppets (Polly Beestone) and masks, with a faun particularly impressive, although the lion Aslan's mane is a little abstract and underwhelming. Excellent performances from all, and another success for Creation.
There are reviews from The Stage ("looking for an alternative to traditional pantomime, then this take on a children’s classic is recommended"), Reviews Gate ("enduring story, but why the music?") and Daily Info ("I am sure [Creation] are very proud of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and rightly so. I recommend it heartily to all of you").