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Review: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The West Yorkshire Playhouse has excelled this year with its Christmas show. This new stage production of CS Lewis’s enduring classic, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, can only be described as a theatrical masterpiece.

For the first time in its 27-year history the auditorium has been transformed into an in-the-round stage.

Director Sally Cookson has translated the classic with a magnificent sense of wonder and adventure for the stage.

A classic tale of good versus evil, it tells the story of four evacuee children who journey through the wardrobe into the kingdom of Narnia, where it’s always winter but never Christmas, and subsequently find themselves caught up in a power struggle between the evil White Witch and the good and powerful Aslan, the lion.

Cookson’s production is one of wonder. Bed sheets are transformed with expert precision into carpets of snow and suitcases become carriages of a train.

It is a veritable banquet of artistic vision with some beautiful aerial choreography and ropework. There’s puppetry and amazing effects, the most startling is when the White Witch rises to the top of the auditorium and then descends into a flurry of fabric.

It’s hard to single out a particular performance as this production is a team effort. Every performer who graces the huge acting area moves and plays their role, however small with conviction.

Iain Johnstone encompasses the power and pathos as Aslan while Carla Mendonca is dramatically evil and must have nerves of steel to be lifted to the heights of the auditorium and still deliver lines perfectly.

Lucy (Cora Kirk), Peter (Michael Jean-Marain), Edmund (John Leader) and Susan (Patricia Allison) as the children display both innocence and spirit and are an example of ingenious casting.

With exceptional choreography, excellent music and mind-blowing effects, this is a fresh and exciting Christmas entertainment.

It runs until January 27.