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Nov 17th, 2019
The Bridge Theatre is one of my favourite new venues in London. To me, a lot of its productions epitomise the spirit of London - they're creative and resourceful, exciting but not overtly extravagant, and make wonderful use of the smorgasboard of culture the city has available, from music design to casting. And its Christmas production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is no exception. From the very start as the four Pevensie siblings first entered the stage - each played by an actor of colour for the first time I've seen - I felt the stirrings of something special happening. This Narnia has kept up with the times and evolved a lot since the tales we grew up with. This, and the stunning design and technical effects will ensure that this production keeps everyone in the family happy.
Credit must go to the entire creative team, from Craig Leo's puppetry and Susanna Peretz's make-up to designer Rae Smith. The visual impact is beautifully executed, using subtle effects and clever use of ordinary materials to bring Narnia to life. The result is a welcome break from the big-budget effects which seem to be the fashion in theatre these days, which don't leave much to the audience's imagination. I wonder how many children will go home and create their own bedroom Narnia's using white sheets and torches? Hopefully the lasting impact of this Narnia - pieced together before our eyes - is to highlight the joy in the active nature of theatre, and the sense of play it can have.
The production isn't without its drawbacks, and it seems for me and some other critics that these were mostly around the length. At over two-and-a-half hours it's quite a chunky piece of theatre, especially one aiming to attract families. It could be condensed and still pack the same punch without compromising on the storyline. In particular the addition of adhoc musical numbers seemed slightly odd to me, and sometimes an annoying break from the action.
Overall, this production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a magical piece of festive theatre, conscientiously adapted for modern audiences young and old. It is due to go on a UK tour after running at the Bridge however I'd urge you to go see it at this wonderfully cavernous and textural venue, its riverside location making it even more fitting as the home of London's very own Narnia.
View our show pages for more information about The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Bridge Theatre.
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