The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe: Beautifully Realized Fantasy
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Bord Gáis Energy Theater
Listen to the bugle of a soldier’s song, the roar of a bomb, the chaos of a train station. See a group of children line up on the platform; a refugee family. In the current geopolitical climate, Michael Fentiman’s production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is oddly prescient. A fantasy set in a parallel universe while the world is at war, the story of CS Lewis, published in 1950 as a novel, is surely more relevant than it ever was.
Lewis’ story is adapted for the stage by Adam Peck, and while the drama is lucid, it also complements Fentiman’s overall vision, which is based on Sally Cookson’s original 2017 production. In the opening minutes, the central role of the Pevensie children is firmly established, but as the actors storm the stage with lampposts and suitcases lit up like train carriages, the collaborative effort of storytelling is clear. With that in mind, it seems unfair to single out the individual actors, but Ammar Duffus, Shaka Kalokoh, Robin Sinclair, and Karise Yansen maintain a childlike wonder as the Pevensies in even the most dramatically brutal scenes.
Most admirably, perhaps, the production refuses to compete with well-known screen versions of the tale, instead eschewing theatrical trickery for old-school storytelling techniques. The sheets become landscapes: caves and snowy hills. The puppets (an ingenious work by Max Humphries and Toby Olié) are held by visible puppeteers. Musical instruments are transformed into props even when being played. The execution is remarkably sophisticated, but also inspiring: what child hasn’t played with the shadows on the bedroom wall?
Designers Tom Paris and Rae Smith defined a series of circles as part of the proscenium; a design that highlights the sense of time stopped in the story, both in the world of Narnia, where it has been winter for 100 years, and in the setting of the real world, where the children disappear in Narnia for decades but only a few minutes have passed. It’s a pretty good metaphor for the theatrical experience, really, and for this production, which offers a beautifully realized fantasy to get lost in.
Until March 19