By Tiffany Markman, on behalf of Sing at my Party, which sends musical theatre singers – dressed as Disney characters, including the gorgeous Moana – to sing at Joburg birthday parties.
The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is something special. Thanks to extraordinary set design by Sarah Roberts and masterful direction by Francois Theron, combined with powerful physical theatre from the cast of four actors, adults and children will be equally enthralled.
What it’s about
This story is one in CS Lewis’s legendary series, The Chronicles of Narnia. At the back of a dusty wardrobe in their aged Uncle Digory’s weird old house, four siblings – Lucy, Susan, Peter and Edmund – find a hidden entrance to the mythical world of Narnia. Here, fairytale creatures and talking animals are ruled by the evil White Witch but secretly led by the majestic lion Aslan.
What to expect
This isn’t a musical, so there are no catchy lyrical numbers to listen for. But what distinguishes The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe from other theatrical offerings, and from kiddies’ theatre in particular, is the set design.
Sarah Roberts, a multi-award winning theatre designer of international repute, has created an enchanted world on-stage – using white sheets, white wicker baskets, and painted tree branches. The lighting creates a remarkable sense of tension, and the result is real and surreal; stylish, compelling and dreamy.
Highlights include Lucy’s squeakily insistent recounting of the story ‘from the middle and the end, but not from the beginning’, according to my 6-year-old. Nomonde Matiwane is adorable. I had a hard time believing she was an adult.
Look out, too, for great performances by Daniel Keith Geddes (particularly as Mr Tumnus and Aslan), Sandi Dlangalala (as Peter and Mr Beaver), and Nieke Lombard, whose White Witch was more than a little scary, even for me.
The acting team combines into a seamless unit, using their bodies and faces to full physical effect both inside and outside Narnia, as part of creating the theatrical world within which they exist. You’ll see what I mean.
But perhaps the best part is that Director Francois Theron has allowed his actors to use their own (South African) accents, which lends the play a whopping authenticity and helps with the general suspension of disbelief.
For me, there’s only one thing wrong with this production. The second half (at 20 minutes) feels skimpy compared to the first (at 40 minutes), so I had a hard time buying into the children’s deep bond with Aslan, and other plot points.
I’d say ages 4 and up is a good parameter for this show, which isn’t ‘scary’ per se but does yield a few sudden shocks. My 6-year-old was fascinated, and the youthful audience (aged 5 to 13) was loudly and delightfully enthusiastic.
The show details
You’ll find The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe at the National Children’s Theatre, 3 Junction Avenue, Parktown. There are two runs: 15 Aug to 3 Sept and 25 Sept to 15 Oct, and there are 10:30am and 2:30pm shows. Click here for details