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Year 7 and 8 Set Sail For Narnia

Year 7 and 8 Set Sail For Narnia
Drama Senior School

A King in peril, a lion rampant, a voyage to the end of the world and a long-awaited return to Narnia: the Year 7 and 8 production of ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ takes the audience on a magical journey through storms and tempest, encountering  evil slave traders, invisible one-legged ‘Thumpers’, mermaids, dragons and one particularly heroic rodent  with extraordinary face paint, as Caspian and the Pevensey children set sail for the utter, utter east. 

The play opens with pomp and pageantry. It’s all very ‘Game of Thrones’ in the Wroughton Theatre as liege lords and bannermen, squires, knights, lords and heralds take the knee to the tiny terrifying dictator Miraz, played by the marvellously Machiavellian James Fairthorne. But this evil schemer has usurped the kingdom from its rightful ruler, Prince Caspian, and now plots with pantomime villainy to dispatch the seven brave and dashing lords (and ladies - no-sexism in Narnia!) played by Ben Jones, Penny Papadin, Will Powell, Josie-Penning Rowsell, Benji Howlett, Jasmine Evans and Livvy Palmer, on a doomed mission to the end of the world.

Meanwhile back in this side of the most famous literary wardrobe, the Pevensey children are all grown up. Susan and Peter have set sail for land of adulthood and have no time for Narnia anymore. Meanwhile Lucy and Edmund have acquired an obnoxious new cousin, Eustace. Played with suitably swaggering gumption by George Thomas, Jack Melford and Alex Squires, Eustace is so gloriously, deliciously, irritatingly annoying that you’ll just love to hate him - until you learn to love him! 

But Eustace doesn’t believe in Narnia. That is, until a painting comes to life and the trio find themselves magicked onto a ship in the middle of Narnian ocean, manned by a crew of brave mariners (Eliza Bodey, Niall Campbell, Daisy Fuller, Amelia Gibbens, Barney Gray, Drummond Lascelles, Zac Dore and Olivia Pope) who sing sea shanties, scrub decks, and valiantly steer the good ship Dawn Treader towards the Utter East. At the helm is the indefatigable Drinian (Jemimah Barker) who is not-so-ably assisted by the comically inept but haplessly loveable Rynelf  (Bert Scotland).

On board, the children meet King Caspian, now restored to his rightful throne and determined to track down the seven lost lords (and ladies!), right the wrongs of his kingdom – and find himself a queen (Aaaw!)  Kit Baxter and Peter Gamble make up a dashing duo of Caspians, chivalric heroes of the highest order, and charming Courtly Lovers too. For when Ramandu’s beautiful daughter, played by Lucy Small, makes an appearance she steals Caspian’s heart – with the permission of her dad, King Ramandu (Barney Gray) of course!

Enter Reepicheep, the mouseling hero/ine of this particular tale. A swashbuckling rodent, she is played by the diminutive duo of Bea Harding and Ila Cheng, and though she be but little - she is fierce! When our brave little mouse saves the day (again) then sails off into the sunset, this particular reviewer is not ashamed to admit she might have had a tiny tear in her eye! Oh, and special mention must also be made for the genius make up artistry behind those squeaky little faces!

But something is rotten in the state of Narnia, and as the Dawn Treader sails in search of the seven lost Lords (and ladies!), there are many strange and terrifying adventures to be overcome. The slave trade is flourishing, and evil slavers Pug and Tacks capture our band of heroes and plan to sell them in the human flesh market. Alex Winkelmann as Pug is hilariously horrid, whilst   Elkie Hum   as Tacks is goofily gullible. Ducking behind bushes, nabbing wayward children, conducting slave auctions – the pair are fabulously funny - despite their despicable views on human trafficking! 

The marvellously moral Lord Bern (Ben Jones) leads the one-man Abolitionist movement on the Lone Islands, but to no avail. For these lands are governed by the gloriously gruesome Governor Gumpus (Arty Waddington) who reclines on a chaise longue, gorging on grapes and living off his ill-gotten gains. This slimy despot believes girls belong in the kitchen and money in his pocket. But Caspian has other ideas. Cue a big punch up, an emancipation act, followed by some jolly jigs and the Dawn Treader sets sail once more. 

No quest would be complete without a cave full of treasure; and a dragon with many heads and splendiferously shiny disco limbs (oh – those costumes!) Plus mermaids; a river of gold; an enchanted banquet; black mists that make nightmares come true; and sea spirits that lead our valiant crew nearly to their doom. 

Yes, there is magic aplenty in this production.  On one island the Dawn Treader crew meets Coriakin, a wizard of the Gandalf/ Dumbledore school of enchantment. Played by with cloak-swishing aplomb by Gilbert Wilkes, this sorcerer is charmingly obsequious yet somewhat enigmatic. Can we trust this emerald cloak-and-dagger magician who conjures up storms with aplomb that Shakespeare’s Prospero would envy? 

Coriakin has enchanted a band of Thumpers - bobbing, one-legged uglies with one brain cell between them - whom he has rendered ‘invisible’ (the signs around their neck inform the audience of this - just in case we might not have noticed!) A hilariously hapless bunch of invisible idiots played with brilliant comedy by Tyler Davies-Young, Edward Griffin, Bobby Hooper, Lola Jones and Delia Stoica – under the hilariously dubious leadership of Chief Thumper Aurora De Chair, they seek a girl-child who can reverse the spell and make them visible once more. When Lucy gets hold of a book of spells it looks as if they might be in luck!

But this Lucy Pevensey is not the naïve girl of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. Played with charming subtlety and sophistication by Nameeta Nandeibam, Lizzie Barnes and Hilla Hawkins,   we witness Lucy’s coming age in this instalment of the Narnia chronicles.  She faces temptation, faces her fears – and her flaws – and comes out stronger. Edmund too – now Prince Edmund, played by        Tom Burt and Will Lintern, is no longer the churlish ‘Turkish Delight’ eating boy of long ago, but a youth on the cusp of manhood who undergoes his own transformation in this play. With the help of Aslan’s wisdom both he and Lucy begin to wrestle with the challenges that growing up entails. Even if it means saying goodbye to Narnia forever.

For Narnia wouldn’t be Narnia without Aslan, and the lion rampant is brought to life through the ingenious giant puppetry team of Tom Bateman, Ottilie Bye, Martha Edwards, Aine Martin and Omar Zeidan who convey the King of Beast’s regal grandeur and messianic mystique with glorious aplomb. Bathed in the divine aura of a golden light, Aslan lends a moral and spiritual dimension to the play, raising questions that will stay with the audience, long after the lights go down. 

But for me the real magic in this Narnia is created by the team of islanders who whip up storms, magic up mermaids, transform into forests, waves, nightmares, seas of lilies and so much more. They conjure spells, cast prophecies, evoke enchantment, dancing, weaving and singing their way through every thread in the rich tapestry of this beautiful production.  In keeping with the ethos of the KES Drama Department, it is the ensemble work of the play where the magic happens, the teamwork and collaboration of every single cast member, no matter how many lines they have, which lends the vital beating heart to this voyage. 

Mind you, when it comes to bringing the thunder, it’s the tech that blow us all away! The music that lent lyricism and beauty to every scene was composed by KES Pupils Georgia Gale, Sasha Hartwell, Callum McGillivray, Joe Pagnamenta, Ed Walton and Danny Wilson. And the set, lighting and AV of the ‘Dawn Treader’ made the audience gasp, reaching new heights of wonder even for KES. The dynamic duo of Mark and James Sellick have outdone themselves. Ably assisted by the pupil tech team (Beatrice Bremner, Eliana Colleypriest, Oscar Haslett, Marc Lapping, Lottie Morris, Tom Penning-Rowsell, Jake Shrikrishna and Emily Street) they bring an entire galleon, and the seven seas all the way to the World’s End in the Wroughton Theatre, delivering storms, tempests, and a veritable tsunami of special effects that C S Lewis could never have dreamt of! 

Talking of dreamers, the creative genius behind this magical mystery voyage was Mrs Bird, assisted by   Jaye Williams, whose vision, imagination and commitment to collaboration magicked up not only an incredible night of theatre for the audience, but a joyous and unforgettable theatrical experience for a cast of thousands (well, almost! I believe 75 pupils were involved in this epic production) And in the spirit of Lewis, every child got to shine in this Narnia, and each pupil involved will have gone on their own voyage of self-discovery along the way.

The last time KES travelled to Narnia was in ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, the Lower School Play of 2019.  The world has been through its own Covid Chronicles since then, and the young cast of that production are sitting their A’ Levels and about to set sail from the shores of KES. What a joy, therefore, to return to C S Lewis’s magical land with a new generation of young actors, and to bring the magic, the mystery, the beauty and wonder of Narnia back to KES once more.  This was an experience this young cast will never forget, for: ‘Once a child of Narnia, always a child of Narnia!’


Review by Mrs Bruton - English and Drama departments

Click here to see photos from the production.












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