Robyn Sinclair

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

08/02/22

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.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney

Electrolyte

14/05/19

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Electrolyte is not so much a musical as an extended piece of performance poetry set to music – what has recently come to be termed ‘gig theatre.’ I’ve only occasionally seen examples of it and, to be honest, I’ve rarely seen it done as convincingly as it is here by Wildcard Theatre’s six-strong cast of actor/musicians. It’s enervating stuff, full of fire and emotion, a blitzkrieg of sound and light that barely pauses to take a breath, yet never allows all that energy to get in the way of telling a powerful and important story.

It’s the story of Jess (Olivia Sweeney), a young, would-be artist living a hedonistic lifestyle with her friends in Leeds, and trying as best she can to shrug off a recent family tragedy. At one particular party, she hooks up with Allie Touch (Robyn Sinclair), a charismatic singer/songwriter whose star is clearly on the rise. She invites Jess to be her guest at a showcase she’s doing in London and Jess gleefully goes along for the ride, partly because she’s a little bit obsessed with Allie, but mostly because she’s anxious to reconnect with someone who lives there, someone she hasn’t seen in a while…

It would be wrong of me to give any more of the plot away; suffice to say that Jess is not the most reliable of narrators, but – as personified by the hyperactive Sweeney – we’re with her every step of the way, willing her to succeed as she careers headlong towards her goal.

But this is more than just a showcase for the lead performer – all the actor musicians in the ensemble have plenty of opportunities to shine and the whole piece is expertly knitted together, encompassing a whole range of musical genres and moods. The script, by James Meteyard, is terrific: witty, playful and occasionally devastating, taking in genuine emotional moments, whilst never allowing itself to wallow in sentimentality.

At this point, I’d usually be urging the citizens of Edinburgh to run out and grab tickets but, sadly, this was a ‘one night only’ appearance at the Traverse. However, Electrolyte is still in the early stages of a ten-week tour of the UK and, chances are, somewhere between now and early July, it could well be coming to a venue near you. If it does, and you miss your chance to book for it, you’ll only have yourselves to blame.

5 stars

Philip Caveney