Bedlam Theatre, Edinburgh. February 2011.
Seeing one of your favourite childhood novels translated onto the stage is always a nerve-wracking experience. Having spent a lot of time with Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy in my youth, it was with some trepidation that I went to see Bedlam’s adaptation of this C.S. Lewis classic. Lucky, then – for me at least – that this play didn’t stray far from the visual representation already established by the blockbuster film.
There were a few quirky touches: walking into the theatre through a corridor packed with vintage coats was particularly nice, and the masking-tape map of Narnia winding around the walls was charmingly ramshackle (and, actually, very impressive – masking-tape art may be the new thing…)
The play itself was well done, with an especially impressive supporting cast. The strong point of the production was perhaps its use of movement: the actors playing gnarled trees, in particular, were wonderfully macabre.
The dialogue felt a little clunky at times, but then it’s always hard to be wholly convinced by adults playing children. Anna Stewart and Billy Watt as Lucy and Edmund were particularly good: Lucy’s cute charm and Edmund’s bratty behaviour combining to create a lovely – and convincing – sibling dynamic. Alexandra Wetherell’s White Witch was beautifully imposing, although rather reminiscent of Tilda Swinton’s representation of her in the film. A hard act to follow, no doubt, and the comparison is meant as a flattering one, but it would have been exciting to see something slightly different done with the character.
Having the animal characters hold up their masks to their faces seemed a slightly odd decision: though it was refreshing that they weren’t attempting to convince us they were actually animals, being able to see the actor’s face meant you automatically focussed on that, rendering the fact that they were carrying, say, a beaver head, slightly obsolete.
Putting on such a well-loved story must have been a daunting task and it’s understandable that, for the most part, this was played very safe. I can’t say I was blown away by it, but it was a more than pleasant way to spend an evening, and, aesthetically, a real treat.
Originally published in The Student.