The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis, adapted and directed by Jasan Savage. Young World Theatre at UCU Theatre, The Hub, University of Canberra. January 19-30, 2005 (Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays 2.30pm and Saturdays and Sundays 10.30am and 2.30pm). Bookings 6201 2645 or www.ucu.canberra.edu.au/lion .
Jasan Savage has used a simple but very effective device which makes this production better for young children than usual. I saw the evidence at the opening performance.
"Won't the lion be scary?" asks Lucy of the audience. "No!" was the emphatic reply from the 3-5 year-olds. Whoops, I thought. Wasn't this the wrong answer? Is this a proper pantomime, or what?
Then I realised how Savage's adaptation cleverly teaches the children to understand the difference between fiction and reality. He had only two actors available and the intimate space of the UCU Theatre in which to tell Lewis's story of four children and a wardrobe within which is a Tardis-like Narnia with myriad animals and fairy-story characters. Two of the children, now grown up (Danielle McGettrick as Lucy and John Kerr as Peter), tell the children in the audience about their wardrobe experience when they were young. In character, they teach the children about using their imaginations, and, using costumes hung in the wardrobe, they re-enact the transition between the spare room and Narnia, playing not only Lucy and Peter when young, but their treacherous younger brother Edmund, the White Witch, the faun, the badger and even Aslan the Lion, while the presence of their other sister, Susan, is imagined in the dialogue and via mime.
The ending is very well done as the children, grown old in Narnia, rediscover the way back through the wardrobe, find they are young again in (their) real life, realise that they can never visit Narnia again, and revert to their original Lucy and Peter to reflect on the experience, and then to themselves as actors to take their well-deserved bows in our real life. Sophisticated theatre - but the littlies followed every step. Wonderful theatre.
McGettrick and Kerr handle the complexity of their acting task very well indeed. Their warmth and sincerity reach out to the children without unnecessary tricks. On the way out I heard little children telling their parents, very seriously, what they thought about the play. That's a successful production in my terms.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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