by C S Lewis adapted by Theresa Heskins.

New Vic Theatre Newcastle-under-Lyme To 23 January 2010.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.

TICKETS: 01782 717962.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 December.

Splendidly kaleidoscopic theatre.
A voice sounds by my ear. It’s an actor, who’s just clambered up a ladder to a ledge over one of the New Vic auditorium’s entrances. A few lines later she’s off, down again. It’s sometimes hard to realise how much sheer energy goes into a performance. Especially in a production like this where actors change swiftly between characters, shift speedily between entrances, change costume, all with split-second timing. And then begin acting whichever role it is right now, in character, being audible through 360-degrees, and holding the attention of their all-age, all-round audience.

For this is a very energetic piece; an ensemble show par excellence, where a swirl of clothing manipulated by performers indicates whether the Wardrobe will this time be merely a receptacle for garments or an opening to the land of Narnia, where an elemental battle is being fought, during wartime Britain, between the evil ice Witch who brings winter but never Christmas, and the lion Aslan.

Director Theresa Heskins has adapted the novel to suit her style and this stage. It plays down C S Lewis’s Christian allegory; while one myth it puts to rest is that theatre-in-the-round cuts out spectacle. The Witch’s sleigh, its reins sweeping from stage level to the heights where she’s seated, makes for a grand processional image, while Father Christmas is more humanly on a level with his reindeer.

Laura Clarkson’s design solutions are a major part of maintaining the whirl of action that enlivens the evening and reflects the constant changes and puzzles in the four evacuees’ experiences. It’s contrived around moveable set pieces; turned-over chairs represent the intrusion of government thugs into a home. But it would struggle to make an impact without Daniella Beattie’s colourful, space- and atmosphere-creating lighting.

Among the acting company it’s the quartet of child characters (acted by adults) who most impress, Jack Blumenau neatly separating Edmund with his discontented expression from his siblings. And when they face the last fight, the World War II planes painted on the floor seem to join battle in an exciting theatrical climax to Heskins’ superbly-orchestrated adaptation and production.

Edmund: Jack Blumenau.
Aslan/Father: Nicholas Cass-Beggs.
Susan: Clara Darcy.
Peter: Antony Eden.
Maugrim/Professor/Father Christmas: Stephen Finegold.
White Witch/Mother: Megan Hall.
Mr Tumnus/Driver: Michael Hugo.
Lucy: Pam Jolley.
Mr Beaver/Minotaur: Richard Kidd.
Mrs Beaver/Mrs Macready: Lorna Laidlaw.
Ensemble: Michael Burgen, Katie Howell.
Children: Jessica Barker, Emily Barton, Evangeline Cooper, James Hart, Daniel Henson, Francesca Mills, Becky Salt, Amelia Shackleton, Evelyn Weldon/Lucas Bailey, Poppy Beresford, Kayleigh Crosbie, Ethan Gater, Olivia McIntyyre, Bethany Palmer, Natasha Prince, Hannah Roberts/Jessica Bates, Harriet Cox, Morgan Fitchard Fyles, Holly Homer, Lindsay Kearns, Rebecca Loton, Sally Molloy, Joshua Pender.

Director: Theresa Heskins.
Designer: Laura Clarkson.
Lighting: Daniella Beattie.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Musical Director/Pianist: James Atherton.
Choreographer: Beverley Edmunds.
Costume: Lis Evans.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Assistant director: James Dacre.
Assistant choreographer: Kelsey Moran.

2010-01-04 11:00:46

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