King Edward's School BATH

the lion, the witch and the wonderland!

the lion, the witch and the wonderland!

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23 May 2019

Forget the ‘Game of Thrones’ finale, if you’re looking for an epic battle between forces of good and evil, complete with wolves, evil queens, witches,  poisoned dwarves and kick-ass fight scenes,  the hottest ticket in town is the KES Lower School production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  C. S Lewis’ timeless tale of betrayal, sacrifice and coming-of-age is brought stunningly to life in the Wroughton Theatre in this brilliantly inventive and sublimely beautiful ‘song of ice and fire’ that resonates with the ‘deep magic’ of Narnia.

Set in the round, this is an utterly immersive experience for the audience. The action opens with wailing air-raid sirens and then the four Pevensey children stumble onto stage: sensible Susan (Edie Bourne-Jones); perfect Peter (Noah Murray); little Lucy (Annika Moorhouse) and  - erm – obnoxious Edmund (Ollie Featherstone).  In tank tops and knee socks, this famous four wonderfully embody the quintessentially English school children of Lewis’s classic tale: Peter and Susan burdened down with older sibling responsibility, Edmund sullen and resentful, Lucy over-awed and over-looked. 
They find themselves in the home of  the kindly but eccentric Professor  (Horry Forster and Fabian Drew) and his indominatalble house-keeper (Clotilde Motel and Abigail Baxter) whose attempts to whip the children ‘spit-spot’ into shape only lead to more sibling rivalry – and eventually to the eponymous wardrobe. 

As Lucy tumbles through a forest of fur coats, the real magic begins. The stage miraculously transforms  - through the wizardry of the magic makers - to a land of snow, silken trees and a floating lamp-post; a realm of dancing fauns, leopards, elves, dryads; a world  where houses fly, where tables and chairs and afternoon tea floats  in through the air; a land of eternal winter with no Christmas  - that is,  until the unforgettable appearance of Santa (Jacob Coutts) who sweeps on stage  like the greatest showman, replete with two very glamorous assistant elves (Alice Cochrane and Ariana Moayedi)!  

Here in Narnia, Annika Moorhouse’s adorably curious and innocent Lucy encounters the equally loveable Mr Tumnus -  played with beguiling sweetness  and eccentricity by Joe Johnson -  whilst Edmund encounters the White Witch herself. Or I should say, herselves. For if one White Witch is scary – six is positively spine-chilling. Alternately seductive, sinister and sadistic, this bevvy of femme fatales (India Purdie, Maddie Davies, Maia West, Olivia Laughton, Lily Chapman and Elsie Bruton) lure in  the obnoxiously naive Edmund (Olly Featherstone)  with the promise of Turkish Delight. Her make-up, incidentally, deserves a curtain call all of its own!

And now the forces of evil are gathering in Narnia’s icy wastes. Headed up by Maugrim (Alex Knight) the wolf-pack are like street-fighters, mean, lean wolverines who kick-box  and karate chop anything that stands in their way, and the Dwarf Henchmen (who looked surprisingly tall to this particular reviewer!)  grunt and  gurn and drool with yobbish  imbecility. 

Luckily there are plenty of plucky goodies to take on the forces of snowy evil. The  intrepid Beavers are like Biggles meets Baden Powell (via Bronze Duke of Edinburgh!): Mama Beaver, played by Molly Livesey, is  a  mixture of Lara Croft and Brown Owl, getting over- excited about Santa and a little bit Mrs Hinch about house-keeping; Papa Beaver (Theo Wood) is an adorably bumbling  and slightly incompetent Bear Grylls;  whilst Clem Scotland, Ned Holdsworth and Dotty Hodge complete the squadron of eager beaver cuteness, delighting the audience with mad-cap capers as they seek to save the children, and civilisation as we know it,  under the rallying cry of  ‘For Aslan!’

They find allies, pluckily brought to life by Luca McCarthy and Isabella Carney, who brave wolves and witches and end up petrified (literally) in the service of the great lion.  For Aslan truly is a thing of greatness  - a glorious piece of puppetry (brought to life by Charlie McGuire, Lucy Smith, Grace Blackwell, Barnaby Saumarez-Smith, Ava Foyle, Jacob Cooper and Jonty Manners-Bell) he dominates the stage  like a sun god, messianic and magnificent. When Aslan lays down his life  on the stone table to save Edmund, the white witch screaming, ‘Despair and Die’ as she plunges a dagger into his heart, it is quite simply one of the most spectacular pieces of KES theatre I have seen in ten years of reviewing in the Wroughton!

But this was a story of sacrifice and resurrection and on the sunny side of the battle lines were sleek somersaulting leopards in spotty catsuits,  rainbow-hued unicorns and morris-dancing Aslan goodies, along with the balletic fauns who marked out the changing seasons with lyrical dance sequences. And as the final battles raged, the older Pevensey children  came of age. We watched Peter, now movingly played by Ned Boursin, struggle to grow from boy to prince; Hepzibah Bevis  and Maria Mergoupis as the older Susan and Lucy brought mature intensity to the scenes at the stone table; whilst Tom Birchall redeemed Edmund  in the audience’s eyes – the boy who betrayed became the young man we were all rooting for. 

Behind the ‘deep magic’ of this unforgettable production were the extraordinary creative talents of Becca Long (Set Design/ Costume and Stage management) and James Sellick (Lighting/Sound/Technical manager), along with a backstage crew,  and hair/make-up team made up of KES students. Meanwhile the directorial team included Year 10  and 12 Drama Students (Ollie Cochran, Henry Skinner and Sam Holdsworth) and former-KES-student-turned-drama-intern (and star choreographer!) Lucy Thomas, headed up by the wildly inventive, endlessly energetic and magically brilliant creative brain of Victoria Stevens-Craig!

They say once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen in Narnia, and whilst the audience left the theatre sprinkled with a little Narnian stardust,  I feel sure that every member of the cast who brought this epic production  so magnificently to life will carry a little bit of Narnian magic in their hearts forever.

Review, kindly provided by Mrs Burton, from the English department




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