Suspending audiences in a world of fantasy and awe, Leeds Playhouse production has compressed C.S. Lewis’s sprawling novels into a finely tuned, 130-minute, minimalist live creation.
The first of the seven novels within The Chronicles of Narnia franchise follows Lucy (Karise Yansen) and her three older siblings as they discover the magical realm through a wardrobe in the spare room of their new home. A rich world awaits them and guided by a lion named Aslan (Chris Jared) and a faun named Mr Tumnus (Jez Unwin) the kids soon realise that Narnia offers a particularly frosty welcome. With the remote land controlled by a prevailing White Witch (played by Samantha Womack) the children find themselves suddenly shifting from making animal acquaintances to making powerful enemies.
As we move past the novels 70-year release, director, Michael Fentiman breathes new life into C.S Lewis’ well-worn storyline. Despite audience’s knowledge of the text, the production safeguards that this quintessentially British creation is founded around a superb cast that keeps the audience enthralled in their wonderment. The classic is tethered to the images that make Narnia a much-loved tale, however this production offers a light and fresh perspective without shedding all that is familiar. Romantic sets and floor-sweeping costumes frame the new reality in a delirious surreal and delightfully warped adaption. Zooming into the trippy Turkish delight nightmares of Edmund (Shaka Kalokoh) is enough to melt the coldest of hearts, with the refreshingly rich world of C.S. Lewis heightened to immerse all audiences into their atmospheric realm.
It is always winter in Narnia and to preserve that sense of wonder the production clutches tightly to the mantra that, less is more. Evoking the rich land through precariously placed boxes, spot-lit scenes or the inclusion of live musical performances that leaves plenty of space for unexpected surprises to enter the Lowry theatre stage. The show mingles puppetry and bewitching set pieces into its dreamy storytelling to offer a mesmerising concoction of costumes and colourful characters that form the powerful imagery behind the novel.
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe Live transports the novel’s poignant religious allegory, its themes around family, friendship and loyalty to offer a wildly entertaining journey on the other side of the Lowry doors. Whether you are a fan of the multiple series or film adaptations, the inquisitive Pevensie children have a way of pulling you back into their world and this adaption will certainly capture a whole new generation.
Tickets are available via the Lowry link