(The Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh) Saturday 28 November 2015
A pre-theatre family discussion saw us debate which of the four children we were most like and why. Keenly we were able to describe the merits and traits of Lucy, Susan, Peter and Edmund, such is the warmth and affection with which the story and the central characters are held. Indeed, when about to encounter a new performance of such a firm childhood favourite I admit to a certain fear and apprehension.
With Andrew Panton’s direction, audiences can banish such doubts. From the opening scene as mother bids a tearful farewell to her four beloved children amid war torn London, we are in the safe hands of a capable and talented company.
An enchanting tale of childhood magic unfolds and central to the captivating story is a well crafted musical score which adds atmosphere in addition to skilfully carrying the narrative along on a seamless melodic journey. It is no surprise to learn of the credentials of Director Andrew Panton. He is currently director of the musical theatre course at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Together with composer and musical director Claire McKenzie, Panton succeeds in taking the spellbound audience to a land of make believe, yet a setting that we find familiar and enticing.
James Rottger (Peter), Charlotte Miranda Smith (Susan), Cristian Ortega (Edmund) and Claire Marie Seddon (Lucy) are perfectly cast and from their opening lines instantly carve their character’s personality firmly on the story. The responsible Susan, the kind and gentle Lucy, the brave Peter and the truculent Edmund are immediately recognisable.
Clever use of minimal props with battered suitcases quickly serving as train seats with intelligent use of lighting and sound, see our heroes swiftly transported to the grand surroundings of the Professor’s mansion, the safe haven of war time evacuation.
C.S. Lewis’s timeless Narnia classic is a clever combination of a coming of age story as well as a traditional tale of good triumphing over evil. First published in 1950, the plot is as enthralling today and captures the childhood wonder that magical lands might truly exist not too far from our own.
Gail Watson plays formidable house keeper, ‘The Mcready’. Her original portrayal brings a unique, local, comic twist adding infectious humour.
The first half is brought to a sparkling close amid a cascade of confetti showering cast and audience as Father Christmas’s arrival signals the beginning of the end of the reign of terror of the White Witch.
A thrilling second half is fast paced and full of excitement as battles rage and loyalties are tested. Aslan (Ben Onwukwe) cleverly succeeds in bringing the fearless and noble lion to life. At times terrifying and yet ever the gallant protector, his lines are delivered with sincerity and a warm authority.
The final scene culminates in a well choreographed reunion of the children with the Professor and Mrs Mcready as they find themselves once more back in the mundane but welcome norm of the spare room. Symbols of the seasons remind us of their glorious reign in Narnia and their triumphant victory over the White Witch.
A visual feast of a Christmas set with Santa, tree and presents is the backdrop as our four familiar friends tell us ‘you can’t know but you will believe!’
Step into the wardrobe and capture the magic of this unmissable production and you too will believe!
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh; show runs until 3 January 2016.
Lindsay Hart, N. Berwick High