Welcome to Narnia

Welcome to Narnia

As a child who didn’t come into contact with C S Lewis’s septology of novels, The Chronicles of Narnia getting absorbed in a fantasy world of magic, mythical beasts and talking animals in a series that has long been considered a classic of children’s literature. With over 100 million copies sold across the world, it endures just as much today as it did when first published in the 1950s.

The first book of the series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is currently on tour thrilling audiences, young and old alike, as it rolls into Bristol’s Hippodrome theatre this week, bringing a taste of Narnia to the West Country.

For those of you that don’t know, this is the story of the Pevensie clan, four children, two boys and two girls who have been evacuated from London at the outbreak of the Second World War and find themselves relocated to the house of Professor Digory Kirke. Here they discover a mysterious wardrobe that leads the children to Narnia.

Narnia is a magical land, controlled by the evil White Witch who has ruled for over a hundred years. In Narnia it is always winter, there is no Christmas and the White Witch rules supreme.

You hardly know that the show has started as a lone soldier takes to the stage and starts to gently play a stand up piano, but before long the tempo starts to rise as Dame Vera Lynn’s wartime classic, We’ll Meet Again is played forming the backdrop to the children’s journey to the country.

This is where the stagecraft starts, and continues throughout the evening. The stage becomes a heaving mass of bodies, all expertly choreographed, with the lighting adding to the foreboding atmosphere of war that pervades the scene. The ensemble clearly all know their roles and the apparent chaos just adds to the visual spectacle.

Once Lucy stumbles across Narnia the production switches back and forwards between fantasy and real life and the action really starts. From here we are introduced to characters including Mr Tumnus (Jez Unwin), Mr & Mrs Beaver (Sam Buttery & Christina Tedders), Aslan the Lion (Chris Jared) and of course the White Witch (Samantha Womack) augmented by the many puppets that appear throughout.

The story romps along at a fair pace, there’s a lot to get through, and many of the ensemble play multiple parts. The set, designed by Rae Smith also plays its part, with full use made of the whole stage, some of the swing scenes are truly mesmerising and the lighting spectacularly adds to the mood and atmosphere of the production.

This is a show meant for children, and it was great to see so many of them in the audience spellbound as the action unfolded, if you want to introduce your grandchildren to the marvels of the theatre then this is a show that will certainly help you do that.

Special credit should go to the director, Michael Fentiman, who describes himself as “being spellbound with wonder” when he first saw the TV production of the story back in 1988, and spellbound is what you feel after seeing this show.

A great night out, you should see it while you can. The show is on at the Bristol Hippodrome until 07 May. For tickets click here.