Monday, 30 November 2015

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Sirens and sleigh-bells are the dramatic pulse behind Andrew Panton's epic new staging of C.S. Lewis' Christian fantasia, adapted here by Theresa Heskins in a version given a fresh breath of life with new songs by Claire McKenzie and Scott Gilmour. The sirens accompany the story's four child heroes' escape to the country where they spend the war exploring the cavernous house where an eccentric professor lives. The sleigh-bells usher in the far darker presence of the White Witch who rules Narnia by force, decreeing it to remain forever winter, but without a hint of Christmas.

But there are prophecies to be fulfilled, and Peter, Susan, Lucy and Edmund are key players in all this, even as the ice slowly melts to signal the coming of Aslan, played by Ben Onwukwe as a dread-locked lord of all goodness.

Panton's production is an impressive feat of theatrical light and shade from the off, as the siblings enter the wardrobe of Becky Minto's expansive set, which opens out onto a wondrous tree-lined kingdom. Here, Cristian Ortega's Edmund whines like a spoilt Tory boy high on Turkish Delight and the prospect of power as he falls under the cruel spell of Pauline Knowles' White Witch. There is fun to be had with John Kielty and Gail Watson's Mr and Mrs Beaver, while Claire-Marie Seddon, James Rottger and Charlotte Miranda Smith play the other children with unabashed gusto.

Driven by the epic sweep of McKenzie's score, this very special show bridges the gulf between innocence and experience, and remains inspirational to the very end of the adventure.

The Herald, November 30th 2015

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