It turns out that if you’re looking for Narnia, it’s down the bottom of the M32 and follow the signs for The Bristol Hippodrome. An incredible new production of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe based on the classic C S Lewis book, is playing at this great venue now and quite simply, it is as near as you’re going to get to theatrical perfection – pretty much faultless storytelling with a wonderful cast and stunning music. Just incredible.
In case you don’t know the story, it follows the adventures of four siblings – two brothers and two sisters – who are evacuated to Scotland during World War II and end up staying with the decidedly peculiar and undeniably intriguing Professor Kirk (Johnson Willis). Hidden away in one of the rooms of the professor’s home is a magical wardrobe that takes the children off to the mystical land of Narnia where they join the fight against the evil White Witch (Samantha Womack) and her hoards of evil beasties.
This is classic children’s storytelling given a very generous extra dose of theatrical wonderment and brought to life with such skill and innovation that you can’t help but love it. Right from the start, with a lone pianist playing the wartime classic We’ll Meet Again before being joined by the wonderful musicians who accompany every minute of the production, this is a show that demands attention. While the four central actors – Robyn Sinclair, Karise Yansen, Shaka Kalokoh and Ammar Duffus – plays the parts perfectly, with just the right amounts of nerves, fear, excitement and family love accompanying them through their adventures, across the boards the performances are exceptional.
As the story unfurls, so the actors take the chance to bring the wonderful music to life, combining their own talents with beautifully written songs and scores that successfully add an extra dimensions to the plot. Then, just as you think it’s all going to be a fun ride, the story takes a sinister turn, with the White Witch and her minions giving the younger audience members a chance to grab hold of their parents’ hands or perhaps dare just a peak through their fingers covering their eyes.
Throughout much of the plot, the straining strings of the cellos and double basses add an eerie, other-worldly element to the proceedings that couldn’t more fitting, before the violins, woodwinds and drums take over to lift the us all alongside stunning dancing and gorgeous set pieces.
Yes, I absolutely loved The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, a classic piece of family theatre that takes a well-loved story and makes it perfect for a couple of hours of escapist fun. As the final curtain fell, one audience member close to me said, “I could happily sit through that again.” I know exactly what she meant.
The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is playing at The Bristol Hippodrome until 7 May. To find out more, click here