I love it when theatre magic happens, and Francois Theron, the artistic director of the National Children’s Theatre, together with his incredibly talented creative team, is a maker of his own particular brand of theatre magic.
The exceptionally clever adaptation of the much loved story by CS Lewis and the first in the Narnia series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, was dramatized by le Clanche du Rand and directed by Francois Theron.
Four adult actors represent the four young siblings sent from London to their uncle’s home in the English countryside during the war. Three of the actors take on the other incidental roles. Nomonde Matiwane plays the role of Lucy, while Daniel Keith Geddes plays Edmund, Mr Tumnus and Aslan. Sandi Dlangalala plays the roles of Peter and Beaver, and Nieke Lombard plays the roles of both Susan and the witch.
Set and costume design was by Sarah Roberts. The minimalist set is a magic circle, white with a white wreath above it and a simple hat stand as the lamp post. Two black cubes, two sets of three wicker baskets, some white painted sticks and four lengths of white material were almost the sum total of the sets and props. The costumes were simple school uniform effects in grey with maroon ties. Lighting designer, Mathew Lewis projected light onto the white material (and other places) creating (together with Ms Roberts, of course) a perfect depiction of Narnia as I imagined it when I read the book nearly five decades ago.
The minimalist sets and props meant that the actors were constantly challenged to create images by mime and sheer good acting. While all of them did well, Daniel Geddes stood out in the cast as he created the three characters. His appearance as Mr Tumnus was delightful and as Aslan he stole our hearts, but it was as the petulant and selfish Edmund that he truly created a distinct and memorable character.
The person with me had never read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, nor had she seen the movie of the book. She, however, had no trouble in following the storyline. I thought the youngest of the children might be challenged by the complex switched between the narration which took place outside the circle and the action which took place inside the circle, but it appears from the intense concentration and lack of fidgeting that this was not the case.
This production is a delight from start to finish and the particular time bending which allowed for only one minute to elapse in the house while the four children spent thirty years in Narnia seemed to have found its way into the theatre, because the show felt very short, certainly much shorter than the one hour and fifteen minutes (plus interval) that it really took.
The promotional material for the show says : “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe transport the audience to an enchanted world of mythical creatures and spirits where the principal inhabitants, intelligent talking animals, are ruled by the majestic lion King Aslan. When four children enter Narnia, they not only find high adventure, but leave richer for the lessons of courage, selflessness and wisdom they’ve learned.” The promotional material in this case is completely accurate.
Well done to Francois Theron and his team, to Moira Katz, the CEO of the National Children’s Theatre and her team. NCT continues to grow and flourish.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe runs at the National Children’s Theatre, 3 Junction Avenue, Parktown, Johannesburg, telephone 011 484 1484, with a short break for the rerun of Khoko’s Treasure, until 15 October 2017.
Khoko’s Treasure returns for another season from 4-25 September 2017 and A Short Cut to a Short Life, will tour schools in November 2017. A Seussified Christmas Carol is the year end production running from 7 November – 23 December 2017. Book now for these shows.
P.S. If you want to see this show as an adult without any children, feel free to do so. One doesn’t need a child to love this production.