Tuesday, 31 December 2002

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, Dec 31, 2002

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
Where: State Theatre,  Dec 31, 2002 to Jan 31, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

'Tis the season for family entertainment and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, adapted by David Parker from C.S. Lewis's novel,  is a perfect family fare.

This enormous visual theatre show is from the producers of The Hobbit. This time, there are not only Philip Millar's  beautifully designed puppets but also fine original music by Ian McDonald.

Much of McDonald's music is evocative of the Middle Eastern. Hugh Colman's  set design provides a spookily beautiful fairy tale environment. The exotic atmosphere is enhanced by Philip Lethlean's magical lighting design.

Director, Nadia Tass,  keeps the action moving and writer-adaptor, David Parker,  provides an economical narrative.

Amanda Muggleton  as the White Witch is magnetic.  Her songs are passionate and her presence commanding as she prowls and parades as the wicked usurping Queen.

The versatile Dennis Olsen  plays several roles. He is charmingly avuncular as the Professor then regal and resonant as Aslan,  the Lion King returning to save Narnia.

The story is based on the first book of seven part Narnia Chronicles  by C.S. Lewis, a professor of Literature at Cambridge. The heroes are four children: Lucy,  Peter,  Edmund  and Susan  Pevensie (Meaghan Davies, Joseph Connell, Brian Rooney, Yolande Brown).

They are a family of World War II refugees who are sent to the house of The Professor. While playing hide and seek, Lucy discovers Narnia through the back of a wardrobe in the spare room. The four save Narnia from the tyrannous White Witch who makes the land  "always winter but never Christmas."

Davies plays the naïve, honest Lucy with energy. Connell, as the responsible older brother, is a talent to watch particularly for his bell-like tones and impeccable control singing Fire in My Soul.

As the older sister, Brown has little to do but provides a strong character. Rooney as the corruptible Edmund plays his traitorous role with zest.

Six compelling acrobats act as sprites. Their role as scene changers becomes repetitious.

Millar's puppets are the stars. Seven multi-skilled puppeteers animate no less than thirty creatures. There is a giant, Rumblebuffin  (Bruce Paterson) Mr. Tumnus , the faun, (Leighton Young) and the majestic Lion King, Aslan (Warrick Williams, Nicola Fearn).

Puppeteers also provide the character's voices and sing. No mean feat when one is simultaneously manipulating a beaver or a dwarf. The multi-skills needed may explain why some puppeteers' acting is weaker than others.

Millar's team produced beautifully sculpted creatures. Aslan's head is exceptional. Black suited puppeteers animate most of the puppets while others, such as centaur and faun, are attached to a human body.

This huge undertaking needs plenty of development time so some niggly details need attention. Aslan's rear end looks loose and some creatures look disabled. Philip Judd's  lyrics are clever but sometimes a little trite.

Despite these quibbles, this is a perfect holiday show for the family.

By Kate Herbert

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