Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Written by Theresa Heskins, music by James Atherton
Produced by Royal & Derngate
Royal & Derngate, Northampton
(2010)

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe production photo

Traditionally a magical, more traditional offer, the Royal & Derngate's panto (based in the Royal) has always been a family affair. However, this years' The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe seemed to lack the magic that has warmed the Christmas hearts of child and adult alike.

Let's be clear - this production did not lack the quality that has come to be recognised at the Royal & Derngate under Lawrie Sansom's Artistic Directorship. Director Dani Parr continues to produce interesting, visually pleasing theatre and this year's production is no different.

However, the enchantment of 'entering the wardrobe' never seemed to be achieved. The illustrious wonder of Narnia felt, at times, to be colder than the snowfall suggested.

Moments of that aforementioned 'magic' were greatly underplayed. The Children entering the wardrobe seemed to be underplayed, as did the 'White Witch's' conjuring of treats for Edmund.

Perhaps it is no surprise that these are the two characters that are mentioned first. Peter Mcgovern stood out as the spoilt, precocious Edmund - his was a performance that communicated the age of the character in a clear and uncompromising way, playing 'young' without unrealistic exaggeration.

Georgina White's horrible Witch was just that - the closest we got to the Panto villain. This was a fine vocal performance, songs delivered with a Jazzy confidence reminiscent of Spamalot's Lady of the Lake - in fact, if there was any role more suited to her voice, this is it.

Other nice touches included the Beavers (Mathew J Henry and Louise Shuttleworth) - their comic, cuddly characterisation (though a little confusing with Caribbean and Northern English accents respectively) added a warm side to the production, especially in the 'ice skating' moment.

The decision to have a visible band at the side of the stage did stress the importance of the music. The soundtrack to the story added a filmic quality - this is an element that did add to important scenes - the finale of 'Spring Again' at the end of Act 1 is an example.

However, there were transitions where some of the actors played instruments when I did question whether the music added to the overall performance. At times, this may have been a play with songs, rather than a musical Christmas play.

This is indicative of my overall response to this production. All the elements were there - multi-talented cast, strong director, timeless story, a theatre with great leadership - yet something just didn't seem to click.

Perhaps you will need to go along for yourself to judge whether that 'something' is really missing or not.

"The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" plays until Sunday 9th January 2011

Reviewer: John Johnson