Moral tale in the snow
Basingstoke – The Haymarket – 4 Dec 09 – 2 Jan 10 – 19:00 (2:00)
The four children: David Tutor as Peter, Michael Bryher as Edmund, Anne-Marie Piazza as Susan and Martina Horrigan as Lucy, play games: ‘hot potato’ ‘you’re it’ at the back of the theatre and run down the aisles, then up the small steps onstage. Centre stage is dominated by a large black double door wardrobe. This stands in front of a stage width white net curtain which obscures from view the back. All the children are wearing grey school uniforms – Peter in trousers, Edmund in shorts, Susan in a blouse and skirt and Lucy in a pinafore.
The children are noisy but want to avoid the wrath of Mrs Macready the housekeeper played by Caroline Corrie. She is strict and looks the part – blonde hair scraped back into tight bun, grey pencil skirt, white blouse, and neat cardigan. She holds her arms stiffly in front of her, a gesture which Edmund cheekily copies.
Howard Saddler’s Professor is charming and eccentric. His cardigan is tucked in at the back of his trousers but it hangs loose at the front, his glasses are held together with sticky tape on one side and he has a habit of clicking his fingers. The children are told to keep quiet and not get in the way of Mrs Macready so they play a game of hide and seek.
Lucy is left alone in the bedroom and decides to hide in the wardrobe – indeed – where else would she go – it is the only item on the stage and takes up half of it. Martina Horrigan’s Lucy is honest and sweet. She is petite, brunette and has a plaster on each knee.
A voiceover is heard (paraphrased) – ‘Where am I? Am I walking on sugar? It’s cold in here.’ Lucy has found her way to Narnia. Richard William’s thoughtful direction allows Lucy, then Edmund, to individually enter the wardrobe and return to the Professor’s house without immediately showing what happens in Narnia. The practicality of moving the Tardis size wardrobe has to be taken into consideration, so the sequence of events is slightly shifted.
Michael Bryher’s Edmund is naughty and funny and he gets into trouble with Mrs Macready, so all four children decide to hide in the wardrobe and put on fur coats. Now the wardrobe is removed.
David Collis’s use of opaque white net curtains allows sets and characters to be moved behind them without being visible. The curtains move three dimensionally across the stage, diagonally and horizontally. The lamp-post can be viewed behind a curtain, which can be made transparent as required. Images of snowflakes are projected onto the curtains and Lucy meets Thomas Wilton as Mr Tumnus – he walks on tip toes, his horns are made from his hair, his upper torso is in the buff which looks very…buff. He plays a large recorder to send Lucy to sleep.
Lucy wakes up to an apologetic Mr Tumnus who had been considering handing her over to the Witch. Lucy leaves Mr Tumnus with a promise of friendship and snow falls from the ceiling, very pretty, it covers Lucy. Lucy speak-sings a song about the ‘bleak mid winter.’ The music is composed and played by Cynthia Millar.
Lucy returns to the Professor’s house and tells her siblings about the magical world she has discovered. No-one believes her but Edmund decides to enter the wardrobe. All too soon he meets The Witch played by Caroline Corrie. She is dressed in a heavy white gown and crowned, like a wedding gone wrong. Wearing strong make up, haughty, and deliciously evil the Witch soon has boisterous Edmund eating out of her hand, or rather a box of Turkish Delight.
Ian Jones’s special effects demonstrate the Witch’s magic – to produce a hot drink and Turkish Delight little flames snap at each side of the stage and the items appear, which are collected by Thomas Wilton’s Dwarf who looks like a mime – with a white face and black beauty spot.
Doron Davidson’s Maugrim is a very physical wolf, always howling- he leaps off the stage chasing after Edmund who runs along the front row. Maugrim is dressed in a black & red uniform with horizontal red stripes across his chest. His costume projects an image of disarray, the supernatural and the night.
Edmund returns to the Professor’s house, after promising to bring his brother and sisters to the Witch. All four children go to Narnia. The eldest siblings: David Tutor as Peter - tall, sensible, blond, and Anne-Marie Piazza as Susan – blonde plaits, sensible, motherly, realise that Lucy was telling the truth about Narnia and Edmund had been lying.
The children meet Mr and Mrs Beaver played by Marc Geoffrey and Jo Castleton who are comical characters. The beaver resemblance is derived from fur hats and black noses which they air ‘rub’ against each other – a couple very much in marital bliss.
Mrs Beaver is a second half of her husband and repeats his words. ‘Trees can talk’, ‘Aslan is on the move’ ‘Meet Aslan at the stone table’. A fun, enjoyable performance.
Edmund leaves his fur coat behind at the Beavers house, a visual reminder that he has gone missing. Howard Saddler’s Aslan and two snow leopards are waiting for the children. Aslan looks like a lion king, wearing a dark blond wig for a mane, a long camel coat which buttons at the navel over a chest which is bare apart from a necklace. He speaks deeply, proudly.
There is a fight scene between Peter and Maugrim, which is the first of many directed by John Sandeman, all of which are well choreographed. Aslan doesn’t take part in this fight, saying ‘let the prince win his spurs.’ Peter kills a wolf and is knighted. In a strongly charged moment Peter cries after fighting the wolves and is comforted by Susan.
It is a graceful battle when the Lion meets the Witch at the stone table. With wide armed gestures and constant eye contact they circle each other around the table. It is a dance of fire and ice.
Cast Credits: (alpha order): Michael Bryher – Edmund. Jo Castleton – Mrs Beaver. Caroline Corrie – The White Witch / Mrs Macready. Doron Davidson – Maugrim. Marc Geoffrey – Mr Beaver. Martina Horrigan – Lucy. Anne-Marie Piazza – Susan. Howard Saddler – Aslan / Professor. John Sandeman – Father Christmas / Leopard. John Torrie – Wolf. David Tutor – Peter. Bill Uden – Leopard. Thomas Wilton – Mr Tumnus / Dwarf.
Company Credits: Writer – C.S. Lewis adapted by Glyn Robbins. Director – Richard Williams. Casting Director – Christine McMurrich. Fight Director – John Sandeman. Designer – David Collis. Lighting Designer – Stephen Holroyd. Music composed and played by – Cynthia Millar. Technical Manager – Ian Jones. Chief Electrician – Daniel Jacobs. Technicians – Morgot Courcoult. Andy Jones. Company Stage Manager – Gayle Jeffery. Deputy Stage Manager – Jennifer Western. Assistant Stage Managers – Bill Uden. John Torrie. Producing Director – Ian Trow. Production Manager – Paul Howse. Set Construction – Hand Made productions. Chief Executive
– Christine Bradwell. Company – Anvil Arts. http://www.anvilarts.org.uk
(c) Wendy Thomson 2010
reviewed Saturday, 2 January 2010