Review: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Threesixty, Kensington Gardens

A fully immersive visit to Narnia with state of the art effects…

Following their successful interpretation of Peter Pan last year, the Threesixty company has turned their attentions to another classic children’s tale, C.S. Lewis’ first Chronicle of Narnia (alright, the second chronologically, but the first one written…) Retelling the story efficiently in the two hour running time (plus twenty minute interval), it keeps some of the elements of the tale that are dropped in other versions – Father Christmas is a key character here – although those who know the Lewis original well will wonder at one or two of the alterations made.

The four Pevensie children are faithfully dressed in recreations of the Pauline Baynes pictures from the books, and are well-cast. Peter develops a maturity as the story goes along; Susan is the sensible one; Edmund is a proto-Turlough (for Doctor Who fans); and Lucy’s central role is accentuated in this version, both starting and concluding the adaptation.

There’s an element of audience participation but it’s never allowed to descend into a pantomime. To be honest, the audience is spending too much time concentrating on everything that’s going on to worry about getting involved. The tent roof is used for both a moving backdrop and to illustrate what’s going on – watch carefully during the resurrection of Aslan, for example – and conceptually the puppetry owes a lot to the stage show of The Lion King, there’s a fluidity to the movements  by the performance artists that is sometimes lacking in the Disney version.

Special praise to those who bring Aslan to life – the attention to detail in the muscle movement is incredible. David Suchet does sound very like Stephen Thorne’s version for the 1978 animated movie, but it’s not exactly a part that lends itself to many different interpretations.

There are a number of songs within the body of the piece, some working more successfully than others – the one in which Edmund shows his distaste for everything going on around him was one of my favourites – but at times the pre-recorded soundtrack overshadowed the singers. Things are better when the live-action instruments are used.

Verdict: An engrossing and thrilling spectacle. Get there if you can.  9/10

Paul Simpson

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