The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at Gillian Lynne Theatre
CS Lewis’s 1950 book has inspired many an adaptation. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe now returns to the stage with a spectacular production based on the Sally Cookson version, first performed in 2017. Directed by Michael Fentiman, the story of the four children entering the magical kingdom of Narnia comes alive beautifully, thanks to mesmerising set devices, costumes, puppetry and magical illusions. It’s a real feast for the eyes.
Set in 1940s wartime Britain, the story begins with four siblings being sent to safety in the countryside to stay with an eccentric professor and his cat. It is not long before the youngest, Lucy, steps into a wardrobe in the spare room and finds herself in Narnia, a land where it has been winter for 100 years. She befriends Mr Tumnus, a friendly faun, but soon finds out that there are dark forces at play and that she may be in grave danger. All the children eventually enter the snowy world and become entangled in the affairs of the evil White Witch (Samatha Womack) and the majestic Aslan (brought to life by Chris Jared and an imposing lion puppet).
The show is technically flawless, with aerial feats, special effects and scene changes choreographed to perfection. Visually, it’s a pleasure to watch from beginning to end. The musicians also contribute wonderfully to creating the right mood, and, although the songs themselves are not so impressive, the singing and the instrumentals are excellent.
Where the play falls short is in the emotional dimension: the story is set up in such a way that the audience doesn’t have a chance to feel connected to the children before their Narnia adventures kick off, nor do the characters of the enchanted land create a strong sense of how their world functions. Some of these imperfections pertain to the original story itself: although a classic, Lewis’s tale has its flaws, among them, not-so-subtle religious allegories, a melange of fantasy elements already seen in other classics, and some points in the plot that remain unclear.
Nevertheless, this is a fantastic show that will doubtless please adults and wow children with its striking visuals and solid performances.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is at Gillian Lynne Theatre from 30th July until 8th January 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: