NIALL ADAMS reviews ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ at the Rose Theatre in Kingston
Christmas is a time for family, a time for magic, but above all a time for child-like wonder. Rose Theatre’s musical production of C. S. Lewis’ classic provides this in spades, transporting its audience into a captivating world of fantasy.
The Pevensie children – Peter (Callum Cronin), Susan (Thomy Lawson), Edmund (Gwithian Evans) and Lucy (Kate Ashman) – are evacuated from Blitz-era London into the safety of the country and a strange professor’s home. Soon the four are hurtling along on a fantastic journey: a battle of good versus evil.
Produced in conjunction with the Rose Youth Theatre, the show features an alternating cast of almost entirely young actors. Tonight featured the superb Red company, one of three rotating ensembles, providing a surprisingly polished performance considering the young age of the actors. The four fresh-faced leads and ensemble oozed passion and an infectious excitement throughout. Evans and Ashman, in particular, shined as the youngest of the siblings.
Of the small professional cast, Kate Tydman as the malevolent White Witch turns in a wonderful performance. Equal parts manipulative and psychotic, Tydman creates a truly terrifying villain. Her solo in the second act, at a particularly dark moment in the plot, is a real showstopper showcasing a vocal powerhouse.
The physicality of the entire cast, inspired by their animalist characters, was superb in expressing an authenticity of emotion through body language. A particularly interesting choice was the focus upon birdlike mannerisms and movements for the White Witch. Along with some exquisite costuming, these directorial choices worked beautifully in making these animals believable on stage.
Some slight pacing issues aside, the adaptation from the original novel works well. Director Ciaran McConville chooses to retain Lewis’ basic plot without changing things too much. But, crucially, his decision to utilise the wider ensemble as an ever-present collective narrator clarifies some of the more complex aspects of the plot for the younger members of the audience (and likely anyone else who hasn’t read the book).
Image credited to the Rose Theatre