The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
Threesixty Theatre, 12th July
For the resourceful theatre-goer, tickets to Dominic Goold’s adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe could be found online for a mere £10. A meagre sum indeed for the spectacle that this show presented at the amphitheatre-esque threesixty theatre in Kensington Gardens. The audience was absorbed into the performance, with images projected onto canopies that stretched right to the very back row – not that anyone sat there, for the gaps at the front were generously filled in by those with back-row tickets, ‘for the actors’ sake’, the ushers said. Not that there was many an empty seat, but in a theatre that huge it can’t be easy to sell out.
The audience almost completely encircles the stage, which is empty as the show begins, but as the spectators soon learn, has many a trick hidden up its sleeve. Characters vanish while the audience is distracted by the action elsewhere. Stoves and bookcases and seats appear and disappear seamlessly. Living trees emerge from beneath the boards and are borne up on wires to dance in mid-air, while the greatest prop of all, the wardrobe, rises up out of the stage itself to envelop the Pevensie children.
The setting did have its drawbacks, however; the nature of the theatre meant that most of the audience was easily visible and fairly distracting as they fidgeted and got up to go to the toilet. The size of the theatre also meant it was necessary for the actors to wear microphones, giving their voices a television quality that somewhat reduces the theatricality of it. The actors were brilliant, however, at keeping mobile so that the action felt continuous and never became slow; it was an effort to keep up with them as they ran hither and thither on the stage – as children do, so not lacking in realism.
The empty wooden skeleton of Aslan was given life by three master puppeteers, whose character prowled the stage with the confidence and ease of a true lion, and, when he is murdered by the evil Jadis, miraculously disappears without a trace from the stone table. Special mention must go to Sally Dexter as Aslan’s foe, the White Witch, who radiated malice and cold in the first act, clad in her wintry furs, and turned primal, tribal queen in ragged but majestic dress in the rites and battles of the second act.
Never before have I been to a play in which snow came floating down from the ceiling and swirled around the audience; where trees walked on stilts and hung from the rafters and crept about the stage. Though the script, particularly at the start, is overtly childish, if this is what all children’s theatre is like then pass me a feathered hat and call me Peter Pan.
Images by Simon Annand