City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (2015), Lyceum, Review

By Irene Brown - Posted on 29 November 2015

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Susan Lucy, and Aslan
Show Details
Royal Lyceum Theatre Company
C.S. Lewis (writer), Theresa Heskins (adaptor), Andrew Panton (director) Becky Minto (design), Simon Wilkinson (lighting design), EJ Boyle (choreography), Claire McKenzie(music), Scott Gilmour (lyrics)
James Rottger ( Peter ), Charlotte Miranda Smith (Susan), Cristian Ortega (Edmund), Claire-Marie Seddon ( Lucy), John Kielty (Mr Beaver), Gail Watson (Mrs Beaver / Mrs Mcready), Pauline Knowles (White Witch), Ben Onwukwe (Aslan / Professor), Lewis Howden (Driver/Father Christmas), Ewan Donald (Mr Tumnus / Maugrim), Matthew Tomlinson and Brigid Shine (understudies and chorus)
Running time: 

Being evacuated during wartime must have been an adventure for many children. But no matter how thrilling the shift from town to country life was, it pales beside what happens to the four children in C.S. Lewis’ classic tale The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

This adaptation by Theresa Heskins opens on a smoky platform where farewells fill the air and mingle with the steam from the engine of the 3.29pm train. Among the crowd are Peter (James Rottger), Susan (Charlotte Miranda Smith), Edmund (Cristian Ortega), and Lucy (Claire-Marie Seddon). They are all happed up with gas masks at the ready as they say goodbye to their parents before heading off to stay with an old Professor in his country pile for safety during the war.

Dodging the Professor’s housekeeper Mrs Mcready (Gail Watson), they come across a spare room with nothing in it but a dead bluebottle and a wardrobe. Behind the collection of old fur coats hanging in the wardrobe, they find a land called Narnia ruled by the White Witch (Pauline Knowles) where, though it is perpetually winter, Christmas never arrives.

Hope lies in the deposed ruler, a lion called Aslan (Ben Onwukwe) who is “old as time; young as day”. When he appears, the four are faced with the eternal battle of good versus evil and return from their experience in this strange time zone looking the same but with new view of the world.

The Lyceum staged a dark adaptation for older children of Lewis's classic in 2008. This latest version is a semi–musical whose set shifts magically from a tall, dark panelled library with shifting doors to a misty ephemeral wood inhabited by talking animals. The overall feel is dark and not a little scary as family dynamics play out in a parallel world involving kidnapping, fear, killing and of course some sword swishing and arrow flying heroism.

The four children’s utility clothing in an austere palette of brown, beige and grey contrasts sharply with the attire of the inhabitants of a place whose outlandish creations exquisitely reflect their other worldliness. Here the animals look like quirky models of Bernat Klein knitwear and the silver breast plated wicked White Witch with her funnel coated sledge Driver (Lewis Howden) brings her haughty chill to proceedings.

There is a suffusion of religious and biblical tones with references to boys being ‘sons of Adam’ and girls ‘daughters of Eve’; there is a maverick saviour who appears under a golden glow in the form of Aslan, portrayed with leonine regality by Ben Onwukwe, who suffers a Samson-like emasculation by having his magnificent dreadlocks shorn. And then there is his resurrection, lots of celestial beams and of course redemption for the sinners. With shades of The Wizard of Oz, the Professor and Aslan are both played by Onwukwe that may or may not have been a deliberate ploy to hint at the story’s dream quality.

When Spring eventually makes its tentative appearance, there’s no evidence of it on set except the actors’ descriptions so the images are left to faith and imagination that seems to be a message of the play.

Gail Watson brings some welcome levity to this in her absolute star comic turn as both Mrs Mcready and Mrs Beaver. Lewis Howden’s dodgy looking Driver raises some laughs too when he speaks his lines in a strong Scottish accent. Whether that’s a bit of the cringe factor or genuine warmth at sounds that are at such odds with the rest of the play is debatable. Howden also has the Janus role of Father Christmas that he plays with avuncular warmth and ties things up happily.

Irrespective of religious beliefs the affirming message from this show of looking towards the warmth and light rather than the hard bitten cold and dismal dark is what shines through. Under Andrew Panton’s astute direction, this ambitious ensemble piece has the hallmarks of a classic Lyceum Christmas show that adds another jewel to their 50 year crown.

28 November 2015 – 3 January 2016, 7pm (mats 2pm)
Touch Tours for visually impaired: Thur 10 Dec, 6.15pm and Sat 12 Dec at 12.45 pm;
Audio-described Performances Thur 10 Dec, 7pm and Sat 12 Dec, 2pm;
BSL Interpreted Performance Wed 16 Dec, 7pm;
Captioned Performance: Sat 5 Dec, 2pm.