Brite Theatre and Midsummer Madness, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
It’s a story that we all know so well. So, when I heard that Brite Theatre and Midsummer Madness had been working on a production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I knew I had to go along, if only to be transported back to the imaginative days of my childhood.
You could argue that it’s a risk adapting such a well-known story, of which I’m sure we all have such fond memories, for the stage- especially following the glossy film version of 2005- but I can safely say the Midsummer Madness pulled it off. The almost non-existent set really allowed the acting to shine through without distractions, and forced the audience to use their imaginations, an appropriate move given that this is indeed a story all about the imagination.
One of the harder things to do with a story like this was always going to be convincing the audience that these student-age actors were actually small children, but I was particularly impressed with the way that Melissa Barrett, who played the youngest Pevensie sibling Lucy, transformed into a little girl, tears, tantrums and all. That these brothers and sisters- the others played by David Johnson, Bryony Reynolds and Jake Francis- had been together all their lives was really believable, and I could really envisage the rich back-story of their childhoods prior to the play’s events, crucial for these characters to become real people before my eyes.
What’s more, I really enjoyed the work of the ensemble in this piece. Rapidly changing from one character to another is never easy (a feat also pulled of remarkably well by James Paul Bush, who played both the eccentric Professor and the timid yet enthusiastic Mr Tumnus, entertaining the audience brilliantly with both), and the ensemble cast rose to the challenge really animatedly. Playing a vast array of strange and mysterious creatures, this small team filled the empty stage and somehow made us believe that there were more of them than there really were.
Perhaps my one gripe with the production was that some of the costumes left a little to be desired. I have to respect that costuming animals and strange dark creatures is a challenge without big Broadway budgets, but I know I was not the only audience member to have supressed a giggle when the noble Aslan, played by Chris Harknett, entered wearing a shiny gold mask. That said, I think it is testament to Harknett’s acting that we still found respect for him despite this.
Overall, this production took me right back in time to my childhood, and I felt sure that it must have done for the cast and crew as well. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was nostalgic, imaginative, and really well performed.
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