31 July 2012

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by threesixty

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe started off life as a book but it has become a quintessential part of British culture through numerous TV and film adaptations.

I had seen several of those, and have watched the most recent film several times, but this was the first time that I saw it on the stage.

And what a stage. As the name threesixty suggests, this production is on a round stage which is housed in a circus tent.

To add that little swirl of cream to the coffee, the tent is in Kensington Gardens which entices you to go for a walk before the show.

The audience was something of a mixture, reflecting the broad appeal of the story. There were lots of children there but this was by no means a pantomime crowd and there were lots of teenagers there too and even a large group of smart professionals enjoying some corporate hospitality. So a fiftysomething bloke like me did not stand out too much despite not having any kids, or grandkids, in tow.

Whatever our ages or our previous experiences with the story we were all swept along by the drama, were amazed by some of the theatrical tricks and had a wonderful evening.

The staging was deceptively simple and the stage never had very many props or people on it.

The wardrobe rose from the middle of the stage to allow the transition to Narnia without the need for a wall.

Projections slid across the roof of the tent change the mood and the weather.

Actors wore a few basic props to become animals. Our imaginations were more than enough to complete the disguise.

Good use was made of being in the round with actors coming and going via several of the aisles much to the delight of the people sitting nearby.

The pole-less construction of the tent gave space for characters to fly. I was pleased to see this used sparingly, this was very much a play rather than a circus and while there were quite a few gasp-inspiring theatrics they were all firmly seated within the context of the story.

And the story is why this was such a good show. The adaptation kept all the key points that we were expecting to be awed, scared and delighted by. The pacing and the tension were just right too.

This is a play that young kids will want to see again and again, and their parents will be secretly pleased to see it again too.

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