October 15, 2019

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Prairie-themed Narnia casts a spell on audience

Production of classic novel will keep kids engaged

Christina Heather (from left), Braiden Houle, Kristian Jordan and Gwendolyn Collins in a scene from Manitoba Theatre for Young People’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (Leif Norman / MTYP photos)</p>

Christina Heather (from left), Braiden Houle, Kristian Jordan and Gwendolyn Collins in a scene from Manitoba Theatre for Young People’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (Leif Norman / MTYP photos)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/1/2018 (627 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When London was subject to bombing during the Second World War, children were effectively exiled from their homes for their own safety.

But for the four Pevensie siblings at the centre of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the safe haven itself becomes a war zone when an innocent-looking piece of furniture turns out to be a gateway to a fantasy kingdom called Narnia. Specifically, it places the kids in the middle of a battle between the evil White Witch and a noble lion called Aslan, with the salvation of Narnia held in the balance.

The C.S. Lewis book of the same name, the first of several Narnia novels, gives an awful lot for kid audiences to unpack in this Manitoba Theatre for Young People adaptation by Kim Selody.

On top of portraying all the action of the novel on a minimalist set, the ­production also whips by in just one hour (with no intermission).

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/1/2018 (627 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When London was subject to bombing during the Second World War, children were effectively exiled from their homes for their own safety.

But for the four Pevensie siblings at the centre of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the safe haven itself becomes a war zone when an innocent-looking piece of furniture turns out to be a gateway to a fantasy kingdom called Narnia. Specifically, it places the kids in the middle of a battle between the evil White Witch and a noble lion called Aslan, with the salvation of Narnia held in the balance.

The C.S. Lewis book of the same name, the first of several Narnia novels, gives an awful lot for kid audiences to unpack in this Manitoba Theatre for Young People adaptation by Kim Selody.

On top of portraying all the action of the novel on a minimalist set, the ­production also whips by in just one hour (with no intermission).

The desired effect is to fully engage the kids while avoiding potential narrative pitfalls that might baffle them. That mission is accomplished by Winnipeg director Andraea Sartison, as she frames the entire story as a flashback straight from the mouths of the four adult Pevensie children, eldest Peter (Kristian Jordan), sensible Susan (Christina Heather), gloomy Edmund (Braiden Houle) and spirited youngest Lucy (Gwendolyn Collins).

The tricky part is that while each actor plays a sibling, they also trade off playing other roles, including the White Witch, who would doom Narnia to an eternal winter (without Christmas!).

It’s potentially confusing for the younger kids, but the cast pulls it off with a playful spirit.

That exuberant sensibility is also attendant in the set and costume design by Lisa Hancharek. (The wardrobe proves to be especially versatile.)

The play’s regional conceit is that the Pevensies have been banished to the Canadian Prairies, and that accommodates some local flavour to props, so that a sword fight can involve a hockey stick, and a wolf character happens to sport a hockey jersey emblazoned "Wolves."

Lewis intended the story as something of a Christian allegory, especially as pertaining to the character of Aslan, who experiences Christlike execution and resurrection. But as with the source material, one doesn’t detect a particularly proselytizing tone.

For parents who take their kids, it can lead to an interesting post-performance discussion that can and should yield the exciting notion that even the most fantastic story can contain buried subtextual treasures.

randall.king@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

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

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