REVIEWED BY HILLARY STIRLING
I will often bring on Hillary Stirling to A Motley Vision to review some of Zion Theatre Company’s work. Obvioulsy, I’m tied too close to the company, but Hillary brings a fresh set of eyes and an insightful mind to review the shows. This particular adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was written by Joseph Robinette (made available through Dramatic Publishing) and was directed by Rebecca Minson.
I attended the theatrical adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe at the Castle Theater tonight. Much of what the Zion Theater Company produces has Mahorni Stewart’s influence, and so when I went I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t even think to bring my kids until we got there and saw other children. Of course I should have brought them! I’m kicking myself about that and am seriously considering bringing them to another showing on either Monday or next Friday. The play was very much written with a mixed-age audience in mind.
Because I’m so used to ZTC’s very cerebral plays, I actually had to shift gears a bit to get into the performance, though that’s no fault of the actors or the playwright. The casting was very well done, and I especially was helped along in my transition from stodgy grown-up to wide-eyed youth by the actors who played the Narnian animals. The costuming was more suggestion than disguise, with the Beavers being visibly human and at the same time so clearly in-character that it was easy to forget that they weren’t woodland animals. Mr. Tumnus’ almost nervous prancing didn’t remind me of a ram as much as it did a kid, and the actor captured the fact that Mr. Tumnus is rather young himself (as far as fauns go) in a way I’ve never seen elsewhere.
After seeing how well the other animals were portrayed, I was very interested in how Aslan would be represented. Again, he was cast well and the Lion’s majesty and strength came across beautifully. That perception was encouraged by the mane, which reminded me of a pharaoh’s headdress. I suspect that was deliberate, and if so, it was brilliant.
The humans performed well, too. The Pevensies were charming, and the White Witch of the never-ending winter was sharp and crisp to the point of being almost cold (in other words, perfect).
Little additions also enhanced the original story. Just as Jadis has her dwarf, Father Christmas has his own little helper. The lovely, playful dryads actively contributed to the story far more than in the original or other adaptations (and as the mother of a daughter who doesn’t have a fashion-model body shape, I simply adored the fact that the tree-spirits weren’t scrawny but did justice to the strength of the trees they represented). The Christian aspects are made clearer, as well, which I appreciated.
There is a magic on the silver screen, undoubtedly, and if people go to see ZTC’s production expecting that magic, they will be disappointed. However, there is another magic that, if it does not run deeper, certainly is older. Narnia isn’t a land for grown-ups; it is quintessentially a world for children, and the minimalist staging and simple costuming speak to the very roots of drama: the child at play. A white stole makes you a witch, a sparkly bit of paper rolled into a cone makes you a unicorn, and a sword makes you a king. A child’s imagination is a magic all its own, and just like its literary source, the play works that magic very well.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is continuing on Oct. 6, 8, 12, 13, 15 at 7:30pm at the Castle Outdoor Amphitheater in Provo (1300 East Center Street, located right above and behind the Utah State Hospital). Patrons are encouraged to bring outdoor clothing, blankets, pillows, etc. Tickets can be purchased in advance from www.ziontheatrecompany.com, or at the door.