The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe: A Magical Evacuation to a Spectacular Piece of Theatre

The beloved story of C.S Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe has come alive on the stage, and I had the pleasure of seeing it on its opening night at Norwich’s Theatre Royal on the 5th of April.

If you don’t know the story, it focuses on the four Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy who are evacuated from London amid the Blitz to the refuge of a manor house in the country where they find a magical wardrobe that leads them to the snowy world of Narnia. There they are to fulfil the prophecy that two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve will end the cruel reign of the White Witch and Aslan, the lion, will rise again as rightful ruler of Narnia.

The stage was set simply, with a large backdrop of a clock. Beside its numbers were corresponding phases of the moon that immediately had us linking the time between our world and Narnia’s as something otherworldly. The stage floor had a glowing, yellow circle which echoed the clock symbolism, and was predominantly used in the play to show the progression of time and conflict between Aslan and the White Witch. A simple piano stood downstage right, which would soon become prominently used throughout the show to incorporated musical numbers. I would, however, be lax to call this a musical as these songs were less theatrical and more folk, as actors themselves took up instruments and became the orchestra, further adding to the folk-song atmosphere.

The use of staging was ingenious from the moment the play started, submerging us in a world of wonder through the medium of physical theatre. To signify the long train journey the children take, ensemble members held a model train and carried suitcases behind it, now emitting squares of light to signify carriages. Similarly, the transition to Narnia was cleverly done through lighting and costume. The stage was engulfed in harsh, blue light which, up until now, had remained shadowy and grey, ensemble entered from the wings dressed in heavy white coats with exceedingly long trains that snaked along the stage to signify the heavy snowfall and snow fell gently down from the rafters – I was struck by how magical the scene was.

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Image: Norwich Theatre Royal

The costumes further aided the story, as the woodland creatures of the Beavers and other courageous animals were dressed like Air Raid Wardens with overalls and military caps with corresponding ears and tails of their animal. Likewise, the beavers had their tales made of wicker which helped ground the story in the context of the Second World War and its make do and mend attitude – it was as though they had taken items from the wardrobe itself. This was contrasted against the White Witch who wore a white silk dress and fur coat glittering with icicles, and her wolves with black, mechanic stilt legs.

The acting was superb throughout, but a notable standout has to go to Samantha Womack who played Jadus the White Witch. She was as dangerously alluring as she was frightening, and was aided by a harness and wires to achieve this fearful witchery. The Pevensie children were well cast, Ammar Duffus as courageous, older brother Peter, Shaka Kalokoh as defiant Edmund, Robyn Sinclair as logical Susan and Karise Yansen captured Lucy’s inquisitive, brave spirit well. I also enjoyed the diverse casting choices within the show. It was refreshing to see.

I thoroughly enjoyed my night at the theatre, and would highly recommend to see the show if you can, which is running in Norwich until the 9th of April. Thank you Norwich Theatre Royal for kindly allowing me press tickets to see this wonderful show!

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Hamilton Brown

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May 2022
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