27 November 2019, The Tablet

A Narnia for our time


Theatre

A Narnia for our time

Wil Johnson as Aslan the lion
Photo: Brinkhoff Moegenburg

 

The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe
Bridge Theatre, London

C.S. Lewis declined to sell the screen rights to his “Narnia” books, having an old-fashioned view that the cinema of the mind was superior to Hollywood’s. Only after his death in 1965 did TV and movie versions first appear.

If Lewis doubted the ability of film to visualise his fable of four Second World War refugees who find a fantasy kingdom behind some coats in the spare bedroom, he is likely to have been even more sceptical about theatre which, in his time, made its pictures mainly with painted drapes and tinted lighting.

There have been various theatrical attempts, but the version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the 1950 first Narnia novel, which is offered by London’s Bridge Theatre as its seasonal family show (until 2 February 2020) is the first to follow the revolutions in the use of puppets and magic effects that were introduced to children’s theatre by the National Theatre’s His Dark Materials and War Horse, and the West End’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

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