Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas in South Wales without a trip to Sherman Cymru for their festive offering. With two productions aimed at younger (0-6 years) and older (7+years) audiences a trip to one of Cardiff’s most welcoming buildings always adds a little magic to the festive season. This year older audiences are transported to the most mystical places as Rachel O’Riordan is offering C.S. Lewis’s ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. For many it will be bringing a favourite childhood story to the stage, and for a book so ingrained with imagination it is a brave choice to bring something so classic to life.But I think I am learning to expect nothing less from the Sherman’s Artistic Director, and it felt like a spell was cast over the main stage as we were allowed into O’Riordan’s interpretation. And it was beautiful. Realised on stage by actor-musicians, the audience enters into the realm of the story in a way which doesn’t clash with what has gone before but adds a layer, a layer which allows a book to be converted to the stage with a pace which does not feel rushed but a meander through, and at 2 hours (including the interval) it is perfectly timed to maximise the engagement of all.
A fantastic set design by takis meant that we evacuated London by train to the secrets of the old country house, into the spare room and through the Wardrobe into Narnia, completely seamlessly. The revolving stage meant you could feel the changes take place accompanied by the backdrop design and lighting, everything which took you into the world of Narnia and from Narnia’s winter into spring was captivating.
And whilst the design ensured the essence of Narnia was realised it was the wonderful band of actors sharing their talents which really stays with you. Whilst in theatre circles such talent may be commonplace (I really can’t believe it is), watching such wonderful integration of music and acting was a joy, naively I loved how much of the characters were retained as musical interludes took place, I loved that the actors remained on stage and rather than being static played a part as involved spectators as the action unfolded.
The bringing together of live music and acting adds something not only to the magic of theatre but also to the magic of a story, maybe it is because it is beyond my own imagination to see music, but I think that’s ok, the theatre is here to inspire us, to push our boundaries and this production, gently and unintrudingly does this.
And what makes it even more mystifying is that for me there were no stand-out performances (although Gareth Wyn Griffiths and the squirrel is a moment of genius), this really is a cast of multi-talented actors who each hold their performances to such high levels that you really are simply left in awe.
And it wasn’t just me. The audience was mesmerized, I was amazed to see such a wide span of ages, children maybe as young as 4 were enraptured, and whilst there is a cautionary note about the themes (Aslan is slain afterall) which would deter me from bringing my three (my eldest is in an ongoing fearful stage) it is definitely one for parental choice given the little boy nearest me was on his feet applauding at the end such were the levels of enjoyment.
As Christmas productions go, this is definitely a perfect family ticket. The themes of sibling bond, family and good v evil are interwoven without intensity, leaving an overriding sense of hope and joy.
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is at the Sherman Cymru until Thursday 31st December. Tickets are available from the website or via the Box Office on 029 2064 6900.
Disclosure: I received complementary tickets for the purposes of this review. All opinions and views contained are our own.