Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Dudley Little Theatre

Netherton Arts Centre


NETHERTON dutifully set the scene by providing Narnia-like temperatures with a promise of snow later for the opening night of this adaptation of  C S Lewis's 1950 children' fantasy novel.

It is not the easiest production to stage, changing from a bedroom through a wardrobe into a fully-fledged, snow engulfed country in the blink of an eye, or at least without too much scene shifting or long periods of blacked out stage but DLT made a decent fist of it.

It also demands creatures such as fauns, beavers, wolves and . . . odd things as well as humans, or sons of Adam and daughters of Eve as the Narnians call us, er, them - Peter and Edmund and Susan and Lucy that is

They are the evacuees sent, in 1940, to stay with the professor in the safety of the country, with the Professor, played by Maurice Felto,  appearing strict but you could detect there might have been a twinkle in his eye. He looks remarkably like Father Christmas in Narnia while his housekeeper, the stern, humourless Mrs McCready, played without a hint of warmth by Karen Whittingham, looks remarkably like the white witch in the icy kingdom the other side of the G-Plan.

 Peter, played with the sort of style a chap needs by Gareth May, is their leader while Edmund, a bit of a bounder played by Leo Prince, is a thoroughly bad egg but comes up trumps in the end and almost dies for his pains.

Susan, played with a motherly touch by Julie Bywater is the practical one while the baby of the family, Lucy, played by Jane Williams, is, well, a bit wet – although she does find the entrance to Narnia through the wardrobe  - which helpfully had a lion painted on its doors.

Transformation is achieved through lighting, curtains and revolving scenery, which was simple and effective, to take us to Narnia where we meet Mr Tummus the faun who is probably the world's worst spy and kidnapper. He is played with a mix of timidity and terror of the wicked white witch by Andy Rock,

Phil Sheffield manages to look imposing as the righter of wrongs and all round good guy Aslan, the Lion king of Narnia as he warms up for a fight to the death with Karen Whittingham as the White Witch, the fun-loving the life and soul of the torture chamber

And well might he be afraid of the White Witch who is sly, cruel, mean and spiteful - and those are her good points. I suspect no one nicks her peg in the dressing room!

Aided by her henchmen Maugrim, the wolf head of secret police, played by Ben Savage, and Ginarrbrik, the witch's dwarf and sleighdriver, played by Simon Hawkins, she rules Narnia with an icy fist.

But our intrepid humans join forces with Mr and Mrs Beaver, played by Tony Stamp and Lyndsey Parker, and their children Katie Wilkinson and Harry Clee, and set out to meet up with the true king of Narnia, Aslan the Lion and although Phil Sheffield looks the part the huge recorded roar somehow does not go with his voice,

It all leads up to the final battle between good and evil, carried out in dim light and in slow motion which is very effective and much more telling than rushing about swinging swords and hoping it looks like a scene from Zorro. 

Speaking of looking real, Susan is given a bow by Father Christmas for the fight ahead and goes into battle dutifully carrying it – but without arrows a bow is just . . . well a stick. Please someone put a late order in to Father Christmas for a quiver and some arrows.

Director Rebecca Clee has kept a tight rein on a show that could so easily have run away from her with plenty of scenes to fit in, something which makes the second half a little disjointed and jerky, but all in all she mostly keeps up a decent pace and the enthusiastic and well drilled cast jolly things along nicely.

I have doubts that fantasy books such as this, The Wizard of Oz, or The Hobbit and so on are fully at ease in stage adaptations, this one was by Glynn Robbins. They have so vast a canvas to cover but full marks to DLT for keeping true to the book and  making such a good fist of it to produce an enjoyable evening for the whole family. To 08-12-12.

Roger Clarke 

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