Sam Womack’s Game of Thrones Adventure in Narnia in Lowry
Samantha Womack is still accepting the spectacle she finds herself surrounded on stage with each performance of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
This awe-inspiring CS Lewis tale of four wartime refugees who discover a magical land hidden in the back of a closet will captivate family audiences during Christmas time at The Lowry.
Sam plays the white witch, enemy of Aslan the lion in this classic battle of good versus evil.
“The whole show is a huge show,” said Sam, who has visited Salford Quays before in roles as diverse as Morticia Adams in The Addams Family and Rachel Watson in The Girl on the Train.
“You feel like a little cog in this Ferris wheel and it’s the spectacle itself that pushes you forward.
While the aforementioned role of Girl on the Train was mentally challenging, Sam found the White Witch to be more of a physical challenge.
The lion, the witch and the wardrobe (Photo: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg)
“It has been really interesting for me,” she said. “There’s a lot of theft – I’m strapped into a harness – and I do a lot of my entries on this Mad Max type machine. It’s almost like going on a circus ride.
Initially, the idea was to style the white witch to look like a star in Hollywood’s golden age. But the final version is quite different.
“Because she has to inhabit the same world that Aslan, director Michael Fentiman, wanted her to be more tribal and more warlike,” Sam said.
“So now she’s become more Game of Thrones, wrapped in furs with dead carcasses all over it. It’s not as stylish as it used to be, but it’s perfect for production.
Sam’s “warrior queen” look is not without its challenges.
“The first fur coat I step out in is the weight of a Fiat 500,” she laughed. “It is impossible to move in.
The actors will always tell you that they prefer to play the evil characters and that Sam relishes her role as a white witch.
“She’s a little weird and manipulative; she’s not a full-fledged villain, “Sam said.” She’s a flirtatious, she senses the damage in people and she changes her approach based on their weaknesses.
“With Edmund – one of the refugee children – she’s sweet enough and almost motherly at first to gain her confidence, then in the second act she gets pretty terrifying. It’s really interesting to be able to do that with a character.
While The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is this season’s big party production, everyone involved was keenly aware that it wouldn’t become a pantomime.
“At first, it was my fear; that it would become too Christmas, ”said Sam.“ When we started to do the White Witch’s hair, I quickly noticed if there was a bit too much glitter and sparkle in her, but Michael the director has a such a good understanding of CS Lewis that we tell the story in all of its subtleties.
Chris Jared as Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Photo: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg)
“During rehearsals he would constantly refer us to the books and talk about CS Lewis and that keeps us from being like a panto in any way.”
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is one of those classic children’s tales that has been read by generations. It was one of Sam’s favorites when she was a child and she then read it to her own children.
“The writing is so deep,” she said. “When you read it as a kid you see it as an adventure tale, but as you get older and read it to your kids you start to see the theology and the debate about loss and isolation. I also got the feeling of being on the move.
These are powerful things and a story that Sam says is particularly relevant to us now.
“In a way, it’s about feeling lost in a world that has become brutal and ugly and scary and wondering how to hold onto your beliefs when something terrifying has happened.
“As we came out of lockdown, it was like I was feeling, wondering ‘what just happened?'”
Samantha Womack as the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Photo: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg)
The relationship between good – Aslan – and evil – Sam’s White Witch is central to the production, and the series doesn’t make a big splash.
“There is violence, sometimes it is very tribal and terrifying,” Sam said. “But there is violence and death in the world every day that children see. And the spectacle is also very uplifting. What’s good for me is that I don’t have to hold back from being scary as that is counterbalanced by the beauty of the production showing the need for good and compassion.
Aslan is the beacon of that compassion with three puppeteers operating the giant lion produced by the same designers responsible for War Horse.
“It’s a pretty deep experience working with Aslan,” Sam said. “Chris plays his human spirit and then you have this royal beast on stage. It’s so powerful.
“What surprised me is how moved people are by the whole production, it creates a real bond with the audience.”
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, The Lowry Salford Quays until January 15th. Details on www.thelowry.com