December 16, 2018

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Actors take ownership interpreting Lewis classic

Manitoba feel inserted into play

Leif Norman / MTYP photos</p><p>Andraea Sartison believes ‘devised theatre’ is a positive way to produce a play.</p>

Leif Norman / MTYP photos

Andraea Sartison believes ‘devised theatre’ is a positive way to produce a play.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/1/2018 (325 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

On face value, author C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a pure escapist fantasy in its tale of how four children are transported via the titular wardrobe from war-torn London to a realm of talking animals and witches — Narnia.

On a deeper level, it’s Christian allegory, with references to creation, crucifixion and the resurrection.

But tasked with bringing the first of the Narnia Chronicles to the stage, director Andraea Sartison took the opportunity as a challenge to put the “play” in play.

Sartison was raised in Calgary but lives in Winnipeg, where she is the artistic director of One Trunk Theatre, a company dedicated to the concept of “devised theatre,” wherein everyone — not just the director — have a substantial say in the final theatrical product. Sartison brings that sensibility to the Manitoba Theatre for Young People production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/1/2018 (325 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

On face value, author C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a pure escapist fantasy in its tale of how four children are transported via the titular wardrobe from war-torn London to a realm of talking animals and witches — Narnia.

On a deeper level, it’s Christian allegory, with references to creation, crucifixion and the resurrection.

But tasked with bringing the first of the Narnia Chronicles to the stage, director Andraea Sartison took the opportunity as a challenge to put the "play" in play.

Director Andraea Sartison</p>

Director Andraea Sartison

Sartison was raised in Calgary but lives in Winnipeg, where she is the artistic director of One Trunk Theatre, a company dedicated to the concept of "devised theatre," wherein everyone — not just the director — have a substantial say in the final theatrical product. Sartison brings that sensibility to the Manitoba Theatre for Young People production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

"That’s the way I like to work," she says. "The best idea in the room moves forward and it doesn’t have to be my idea."

This can result in a process that might seem anarchic to a more dictatorial director.

"At the rehearsals, we really let actors take some of the leadership," she says.

"We asked: if you were a kid acting out this story, how would you do it? Let’s just try it," she says. "So, the second day of rehearsal, that’s how we did the whole show. We had all the props and all the costumes, and some of the set pieces, and I just said: ‘Tell me the story. You don’t have to use your scripts. How would you tell me the story? You can use anything here.’

"And we came back with a lot of really good ideas that ended up in the show that wasn’t me saying: ‘Stand here... Stand there ...’

"That’s the feeling from One Trunk that I’m trying to bring into the room, that everyone feels they have an ownership in the piece.

"That’s important because, in this particular version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the siblings are acting out a story that happened to them when they were younger," Sartison explains.

"We bookend the story with them as adults saying: ‘This happened to us a long time ago.’"

Since the show will eventually be touring through rural Manitoba, Sartison also opted to give the play’s design a local spin instead of the keep-calm-and-carry-on "wartime nostalgia" attached to Lewis’s books.

"A lot of the people that we’re going to play to might be a lot of young children who have never heard the story before, and people who have no idea about postwar London," she says. "They’re rural Manitoba kids, so I wanted the show to have a rural Manitoba feel."

So... might we expect to see Hockey Night in Narnia? Maybe.

"If (Manitoba kids) were going into their closets, what would be the quintessential Canadian things that they would find if they were doing it in their homes?"

After the run at MTYP, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will tour Manitoba schools until May 11.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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