‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’ play review
By Sonam Kaloti, Arts Editor
On November 30, with my Turtles-flavoured hot chocolate and candy cane in hand, I took in the Pacific Theatre—a performing arts venue located in Vancouver. I was about to watch a 100-minute production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe adapted by Ron Reed.
The play features Rebecca deBoer and John Voth playing almost all of the characters except for the tour guide (Kira Fondse/Shelby Wyminga). The theatre was unlike any I had ever seen before. The stage is in the middle of the room on floor level, touching two side walls, while the audience’s seats are on each side of the stage, creating somewhat of a fishbowl effect. As the play began, so did “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby (my favourite holiday musician) on what sounded like a faraway vinyl player. The lights were dimmed to a cozy orange, perfecting the holiday ambience.
The cast’s costume changes are mostly done on stage during their lines. Most of the costumes are spot-on, especially the human character costumes for the time period being represented.
My favourite part of the play was when Voth changed in and out of his Lion costume. When he put it on, I pondered the look for a moment since the costume appeared quite different from deBoer’s Lion costume, which was a hooded gown with several tassels fixed to the hood to represent a mane. Voth’s Lion costume appeared to be a large, old, square fabric draped on his shoulders—almost like a carpet. I was ill-prepared for Voth to strip himself of the Lion cloak, shake it out once, and lay it down centre-stage—for it really was a carpet. That got me good.
Despite the artistic venture being taken, there may be just too many characters in the script for only two actors to play. It’s ambitious, which I applaud, but having an actor on stage cycle through three or more characters within a minute—without an outfit change at the least—makes the production a bit tiring to follow.
However, the actors do a wonderful job transitioning from their narration voice back into their characters and vice versa. This is done smoothly and helps greatly with being able to follow the play.
The accents are impressive, especially considering the sheer number of different accents Voth and deBoer had to successfully master to play all their parts. The acting is phenomenal; the two really seem to put their entire souls into the play, sounding more and more breathless as the hours go by. I couldn’t memorize 20 minutes of lines, let alone almost two hours of them.
The set design and lighting are consistently jaw-dropping. It’s just as fascinatingly peculiar to watch the duo change the set on their own, whilst juggling their lines, actions, and costume changes all at once. There are many props in the play, which makes sense as most of them seem to be of great importance. The wardrobe itself is pushed from wall to wall to represent the characters’ setting change between Narnia and their home.
Lighting for different settings is always beautiful. A blue haze settles on the stage during most scenes in Narnia, representing the frosty kingdom. A glowing orange lamppost blazes against the blue, and from the ceiling synthetic snow falls upon the white sheets laid atop the floors.
Shadows are created with the lighting to represent tree branches and snowflakes. Near the end of the play, a side door is opened to allow the only warm light onto the stage. This creates a perfect campfire lighting to the dramatic nighttime scene, which subjects the actors’ shadows to loom tall and forebodingly on the walls of the theatre.
I was anxious during the scenes of a certain stage set-up. The wardrobe had been laid down horizontally, the top resting upon a chest so that the wardrobe was suspended diagonally from the floor. Characters laid atop the wardrobe, ran on it, and danced on it—and the entire time my body was tensed, just waiting for the top of the wardrobe to crash down. It didn’t, thankfully, but it was a lot to take for my heart.
I do wish there was more mature comedy within the play. The homage to the children’s classic is fantastic but most of the audience in the performance I attended consisted of people in their early 40s to seniors. Seeing more dimension in the script to cater better to the audience may have amplified the performance a lot. Strangely though, much of the audience seemed greatly amused by the children’s humour, for which I have no explanation.
Overall, the play is incredibly impressive, especially since the majority of the show is performed by only two actors. I think all art that has such soul deserves to be experienced. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe runs until December 29.