Review: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe




Richard Lutz tags along with eight year old Finn to find out how the CS Lewis classic takes to the stage.


It’s been making the rounds for almost 20 years now but bring on the winter wonderland fantasy world of Narnia and you do have a recommendable start to the Christmas season.

This production, at the Birmingham Rep for the next six weeks, doesn’t stint on eye popping design and macro-puppetry.. And though the young cast does get a bit sixth formish and golly-whizzbang at times, it does hold the attention of the young audience that surrounded, if not overwhelmed me, at this cavernous theatre.

So what better way to get a proper opinion than to take along Finn who, at eight years old, would likely reflect the views of those around me?

Here’s what he had to say as he watched the play, and admirably consumed chocolate and ice cream:

“It was a good story but it reminded me of The Secret Garden which we read at school. But I liked the songs. And the puppets could be scary. And for that reason maybe no one under eight should go in case they got frightened. And though it had its sad and scary bits, I liked some of the funny lines”

I’m with Finn on those giant puppets too. Aslan the Lion was handled by three operators and stood at a good 12 feet tall so when he roared, boosted by the radio mics, the whole audience knew about it.

It is an elegant feathery puppet to be able to move up, down and sideways on the raked stage and, yes, my eye did forget the three lads underneath as the lion moved lightly, quickly..

Set design had a wintery snowbound feel that was home to the evil white witch (played nastily and well by Allison McKenzie) and there was robust singing by the big-voiced Mrs Beaver (Sophie Nomvete), who offered a friendly face to the kids in Narnia.

Script by Adrian Mitchell was solid and, luckily, didn’t descend into trite cuteness. Mitchell also didn’t hammer home the CS Lewis religious allusions that peek above the surface in the original tale and usually set keyboards alight with sophomoric essays on allegorical 20th century literature. He stuck to the story and the  drama.

My only concern is whether this 60 year old story, set in a country house that is home to four evacuees, stands the test of time. It is old -ashioned (maybe that’s its charm) at times and the puppets and lighting can’t hold up that well in this land of CGI, computer games and the giant movies that wash around us, most notably the impending Star Wars next month.

But for young kids, it’s a visual treat…and, yes, those puppets are big.

Until 16th January 2016. Tickets 0121 236 4455.