by C S Lewis adapted by Theresa Heskins music by James Atherton.

Royal and Derngate (Royal auditorium) Guildhall Road NN1 1DP To 9 January 2011.
1.15pm & 5.15pm 3, 8, 9 Jan.
2.15pm & 7.15pm 5-7 Jan.
Runs 1hr 50min One interval.

TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 December.

Narnia takes successfully to the stage again.
Written as the 2009 Christmas show for Newcastle-under-Lyme’s New Vic theatre-in-the-round, where she is Artistic Director, Theresa Heskins’ adaptation of C S Lewis’s 1950 novel, which instigated his Narnia series for young people, was a great success. And Northampton director Dani Parr does well by Heskins, and Lewis, in her revival.

There may not be quite the sweep Heskins brought to her own staging, using the New Vic’s height for grand visions of the Snow Queen-like Witch in her sleigh, and the parade of floating doors creating access to Narnia, but the Royal’s proscenium stage successfully opens up to reveal Narnia’s forest, its trees sliding tactfully away when not needed.

Heskins is faithful to Lewis’s Christian allegory, while presenting a story that’s also an elemental battle between good and evil. The identification of Christ, the Lion of Judah, dying and then coming back to life, with the lion Aslan remains implicit. But if the idea of Aslan dying to redeem not just Edmund – seduced by the Witch’s Turkish Delight (something closer to Pinocchio’s Lampwick and friends than traditional theology) – but the whole of Narnia, isn’t necessarily obvious, Lewis has several back-up strategies.

“Always winter, never Christmas” is as good a sound-bite as anyone might create, while the arrival of Father Christmas is a feelgood moment to show things are going the right way. Then there’s the unfreezing of Tumnus and other Narnia creatures.

Tumnus, like Edmund, has betrayed the Narnia-visiting siblings, if for a different reason. But Heskins and the Northampton team alike catch the tone of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Performances in the England scenes framing the action avoid hints of Famous Five smugness and the closing down of Narnia into a wardrobe-door stuck in the wall of a mansion, with the mystery of how a journey that took years yet lasts hardly a second has clearly enriched the children’s lives, is a strong final impression.

Similarly, Jess Curtis’s designs mix the strangeness of Narnia with the plainness of wartime England, while the panels opening up to create the sense of a train have their own element of theatrical magic.

Mr Tumnus/Witch’s Driver/Aslan Creature: Adam Baxter.
Lucy: Hayley Ellenbrook.
Mr Beaver/Soldier/Minotaur/Eagle: Matthew J Henry.
Aslan/Father: Tony Jayawardena.
Edmund: Peter McGovern.
Peter/Witch’s Follower: Kyle McPhail.
Susan: Alice O’Connell.
Professor Kirk/Maugrim/Father Christmas/Cruel: Michael O’Connor.
Mrs Beaver/Mrs Macready/Eagle/Wraith: Louise Shuttleworth.
White Witch/Mother: Georgina White.
Young company: Shannon Benney, Hollie Blaber, Danny Broxton, Nathan Burn, Morgan Charles, Gemma Clifford, Tia Cotterill, Bethaney Coulson, Rachael Cottle, Leah Delahunt, Brandon Eaglestone, Oliver Evans, Ellie-Rose Green, San Hanrahan, Gemma Harvey, Eidan Howells, Ruby Kent, Payton Lazarus, Caitlin Lumb, Mia Lyman, Jessica Massey, Tino Matiyenga, Matty Miles, Will Miles, Josh Mobbs, Louis Miranda-Smedley, Luke Nunn, Erin O’Callaghan, Michael O’ Callaghan, Henry O’Donnell, Aaron Petel, Jarzinho Rapoz, Demi Rixon, Cameron Samuels, Oliver Saxon, Harriet Scanlan, Dougie Scoles, Jed Scoles, Jessica Slinn, Emma Smith, Bewlay Stanton, Florence Stanton, Katie Sturgess, Ryan Truscott, Peter Thompson-Smith, Jordan Wise, Erin White, Daisy Walker.

Director: Dani Parr.
Designer: Jess Curtis.
Lighting: Natasha Chivers.
Sound: Dan Steele.
Musical Director: Zara Nunn.
Projections: Barret Hodgson.
Movement: Dan O’Neill.
Fight director: Terry King.
Associate director: Holly McBride.

2011-01-03 03:15:26

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