King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
And, we’re back!
After the disappointment of seeing the King’s Theatre close its doors shortly after the launch of the Christmas pantomime, it’s wonderful to return once more to the stalls of the ‘Old Lady of Leven Street’ – and what a fabulous offering to kick things back into motion! I’ve seen several adaptations of CS Lewis’s celebrated book over the years, but few have handled the material quite as skilfully as in this powerful show, directed by Michael Fentiman and based upon Sally Cookson’s original production.
The four Pevensie children – Susan (Robyn Sinclair), Lucy (Karise Yansen), Peter (Ammar Duffus) and Edmund (Shaka Kalokoh) – are sent away from home as evacuees and, in a brilliantly staged opening , find themselves whisked off by train to a remote house somewhere in the wilds of Scotland. Here they meet their host, Professor Kirk (Johnson Willis), the owner of a curious cat and an ancient wardrobe that provides a convenient portal to the forever-winter world of Narnia…
From the outset here is a production that dazzles with enchantment. There’s a big cast, all of whom are given their chance to shine as they dance, play music and slip from character to character with apparent ease. This isn’t so much a full blown musical as a play with songs and the occasional burst of foot-tapping music. Of course, all the familiar faces are in place. There’s the imperious white witch (Samantha Womack), the messiah-like lion (Chris Jared), the flute-tootling faun (Jez Unwin) and the two of rebellious beavers (Sam Buttery and Christina Tedders), intent on returning Narnia to the way it used to be, before the snow began to fall.
There are several moments here that actually make me gasp in surprise: simply but effectively staged flying sequences; genuinely mind-twisting magical effects; and a brilliantly engineered set, where circular panels move smoothly aside to reveal fresh wonders, looking for all the world like Renaissance paintings. The audience sits spellbound as the performers leap and whirl across the stage in a riot of sound, colour and spectacle. The character of Aslan, simultaneously a real actor and a huge puppet, is an absolute masterstroke.
If you’ve been missing the buzz of live theatre, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe offers a feast of delights for all the family – and, if you’ve been waiting for just the right production to lure you back, this must surely be the one to do it.