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Nicola Wright

Review: THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE at The Bridge Theatre

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe The children's classic, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis is an epic tale, and not, you might think, the easiest of books to set on stage.The good news is, that under the direction of Sally Cookson, inventive design by Rae Smith, and a multi talented ensemble, the audience are quickly immersed, having been asked if we have our evacuation slips,on a magical journey journey, into the fantasy world of Narnia.

The magic itself does not come from hi-tech wizardry, or grand sets, instead simple props and puppets are choreographed to create the complex landscape of ice and endless winter. Gigantic sheets billow through the auditorium and settle as snow on the stage, a gauze cloth over a character becomes a statue, and suitcases create a train. The simple background of cracked ice and mountains are multi use, and give depth and scale to the journey. Puppetry director Craig Leo provides the extra magic as the ensemble cast work seamlessly together, bringing woodland creatures, a nightmare skeletal army and the magnificent lion, Aslan, to life.

It was good to see the audience made up of many families with children all of whom seemed enthralled as the tale, set in World War Two, of four evacuee children, Lucy, Susan, Edmund and Peter began to unfold . Roaming around Professor Kirks large house, Lucy is the first to discover the wardrobe, stepping into it, and tumbling into the land of Narnia, a world frozen in eternal winter by its Queen the evil White Witch. On her return Lucy persuades Edmund to go with her, but once there he bumps into the witch, tempted by the promise of eternal turkish delight and becoming king Edmund becomes her servant. It is down to his siblings to rescue him and fulfill the prophecy to defeat the Queen and free the mythical creatures from her spell.

The comedy moments are provided by Mr and Mrs Beaver (Dean Nolan ,Beverly Rudd) and woodland creatures, Badger and Squirrel,who as part of the neighbourhood watch pop up from hidden trap doors and use tin cans to communicate, they are all on hand to help the children, leading them to Aslan the lion who is destined to help them fulfil the prophecy and free Narnia.

On stage musicians create the changing mood, along with the lighting design by Bruno Poet and stunning aerial acrobatics herald the coming of spring. As Lucy and Susan, Keziah Joseph and Shalisa James- Davis, bring a youthful charm to their roles, and Omari Bernard embodies Maugrim the wolf both vocally and physically, writhing, twisting, and snarling, he drew gasps of fear from some of the younger members of the audience.

This production certainly captures the heart of the book, and as in Narnia, time moves quicker than normal, before long the battle is over, the children have ruled Narnia for several years and suddenly we are back in the house wondering if it was all a dream.

This production is a delightful visual feast and is perfectly paced, providing the ideal festive treat for families.