The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe holds a special place In my heart as it is a favourite childhood book of mine. I have acted in it and assisted in stage managing productions of it, as well as using the script as teaching material. The plot of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe is ageless: good versus evil; evil vanquished and all living happily ever after. Four children evacuated to a large country house, discover a gateway to another world called Narnia which is under the spell of the wicked White Witch. In Narnia, “it is always winter but never Christmas”. That is until Asian, with the help of the four children, break the spell.
Capturing the magic ofthis much-loved tale is a formidable task.
This production was a credit to BLT’s Youth Group, the D.R.A.M.A.s. Under the direction of Ed Vander they pulled together an imaginative production with minimum assistance from the group’s leaders, Wayne Sheridan and Ami Williamson. If BLT is to thrive and flourish, new talent and young members have to be encouraged and supported. It is a credit to BLT that it took the risk and allowed the 18 year-old Ed Vander to make his directorial debut here.
The scene was set as soon as one walked into the bar, decorated with frosted tree branches, fairy lights and second world war posters. In the theatre, a medley of songs from the wartime era was playing. As the auditorium lights faded, an air raid siren sounded and a group of children with torches crept across the stage as on their way to be evacuated. A brilliant way of explaining why Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are staying in the Professor’s rambling country house. But why were the children dressed in black with bare arms? Coats and the occasional suitcase would have added so much more to the scene. Throughout this production, inventive ideas were left undeveloped or not fully executed.
One of the difficulties in staging the The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe are the quick scene changes from the Professor’s
country house to Narnia and back again. The scene changing was clumsy. Use of a revolve would have solved some of the
issues around the slow scene changes. And could not the lamp post have been slid on the side ofthe stage rather than dumped centre stage? Having said all that, it was ingenious the way the stone table at Cair Paravel was built.
The four children were beautifully portrayed: the leader Peter (Alex Rees), the motherly Susan (Joanna Ballaster], the wayward Edmund (John Holden Murphy) and the naive Lucy (Imogen Rampton-Brooks). I would particularly like to single out Imogen and Alex for their interpretation of their characters. These two were always in role and when they were not speaking they were
reacting to others on stage in character. The appearance of the malevolent White Witch (Zoe Georgiadis) tempting Edmund with Turkish Delight was wonderfully wicked. Zoe’s voice and demeanour sent shivers down my spine. Her makeup and costume all added to her character, making her a mesmerising presence on stage. The staging in the White Witch’s castle was simple yet so effective; the actors draped in transparent fabric to give the effect of statues. In contrast to the wicked White Witch, Mr and Mrs Beaver (Yasmine Prince and Evie Richards) were a hilarious, comic double act. It was a nice, comic touch that Mrs Beaver never went anywhere without her soup ladle! The battle scene between AsIan and the White Witch was full of energy and Mrs Beaver’s ladle proved to be an effective weapon! Jess Farquarson handled the role of Asian with maturity and gravitas. [oe Gensale who played the Herald had strong stage presence.
Ed Vander managed to avoid the pitfalls of many a youth group production: children standing in a line staring at the audience like rabbits in headlights, mumbling their words! In this production, the children moved on and off the stage with confidence and voice production and diction were good. As I have mentioned, the weaknesses in this production were ideas that were not fully
realised. The pagan sacrifice of Asian was atmospheric but more could have been made of the White Witch’s creatures. The
use of scary masks would have made this scene terrifying. Face paints could have been used to give the animals like Mr and
Mrs Beaver a subtle indication of their animal form – some whiskers and a nose was all that was required. A pair of horns
for Mr Tumnus would have shown he was a faun.
The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe is a children’s play and this production was acted by children, produced by
children, for children. Judging by the two little girls in front of me, who sat still, silent and spellbound throughout the
performance, The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe was a production Bromley Little Theatre’s Youth Group should be
very proud of.
– Lorraine Spenceley