A new stage production of LWW

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A new stage production of LWW

Postby coracle » Oct 10, 2017 8:38 am

There will be a production of The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe in the Yorkshire town of Leeds this winter. When I saw this mentioned on facebook by The Chronicles of Narnia, I assumed it would be the same stage play I had seen in London in 2001, and in Stratford,Ontario in 2016.

However it looks to be a new production! (will update when I know)

The production company:
http://www.whatsonstage.com/leeds-theat ... 43462.html

The production dates
https://www.wyp.org.uk/events/lion-witch-wardrobe/

A local news item:
https://www.visitleeds.co.uk/news/WYP-L ... robe.aspx#

[EDIT: Videos didn't seem to work yesterday, but are fine today]

I'm living in Manchester, which is in easy reach of Leeds (an hour by train), so it will be easy to get there.
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Re: A new stage production of LWW

Postby King_Erlian » Oct 11, 2017 1:17 am

Must try to get to this!
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Re: A new stage production of LWW

Postby coracle » Oct 11, 2017 2:09 am

A bit of 'insider information' indicates that the script is a new one, and they have been developing it through workshopping and in rehearsals.

There has also been contact with the C.S.Lewis Estate, so I am looking forward to seeing what they have created.
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Re: A new stage production of LWW

Postby coracle » Nov 23, 2017 1:39 pm

Here are some photos, some videos, and some hints of what is to come.

https://www.wyp.org.uk/events/lion-witch-wardrobe/


Can't wait!!

Update: I have booked my ticket for this Saturday night. I'm going alone, so I will try to observe a lot, and to write notes on my way home in the train.

Update on 29 November: The production opened tonight ("Preview Night"), nicely coinciding with C.S.Lewis's birthday.
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Re: A new stage production of LWW

Postby coracle » Dec 23, 2017 3:22 pm

I am rather lax about this, sorry! It was really wonderful, and I will share some of my impressions soon.
Meanwhile, you can look at bits on their facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/westyorkshireplayhouse/?hc_ref=ARSMJbmUr6gwf75HRStfrZCk80nC0NnOTfpSCIb3CCONYM4KksOlspeY1psYDxSXmKY
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Re: A new stage production of LWW

Postby coracle » Jan 14, 2018 1:43 pm

Today I saw the show for the second time, and was equally captivated with so many aspects of it. I took another Narnia lover with me, who also enjoyed it. I am so glad I got to see it all again.

Here is the post I wrote for the mods about 6 weeks ago, after I had seen it for the first time, with a small number of edits.


First impressions:

Arriving in the auditorium 20 minutes before the start of the show. The seats and the stage are black. Above our heads and above the stage are lots of spherical Chinese lanterns, to be used as lighting [sometimes they shine green, sometimes white, pink or red] and several disco balls (there are also spotlights). On what would normally be Stage Left, there is a dark Lamppost, and on Stage Right a dark framework comes diagonally out above the stage, perhaps 10-15 feet up, with a ladder up to it.
We, the audience, are on both sides of the stage, for ‘Theatre in The Round’ – on each side we are in semi-circular tiered seating, and there are entrances on two sides where the Proscenium Arch normally separates the stage from the audience.
I am sitting on the temporary seating, only occasionally distracted by feet tapping or slight movement when someone walks in or out. We came in via what is usually the Rehearsal Room, which has been transformed into an additional foyer area, with a small coffee/sweets bar and merchandising table. [I saw it being used for rehearsing two weeks earlier, so I know what a transformation it is!]
As we came in, the ushers gave us a green ‘Evacuation Card’. This has turned us into evacuees, who are part of the initial scene at a railway station; now there are sound effects of whistles, bells, and trains. A few cast members are mixing with us in the aisles; they are dressed as 1939 adults. There is also a large railway style clock with Roman numerals, set at 7.32 - I assume it is a 2-sided clock.
The green cards are to be used for something else later in the play.
Ten minutes before start time, the music begins. The musicians seem to be in period costume, with tin hats. I read earlier that the music director also composed the music for the production. (It wasn’t until late in the show that I realise some of the stage roles are also played by musicians/singers – there is a lot of vocal music and vocal sound effects, and I would love to buy a recording of it)

Thoughts during Interval:

There are lots of transitions using doors or frameworks – opening right round with creaks (eg entering Professor’s home), double doors on wheels pushed on and moved around (eg the Wardrobe) pairs of separate doors that are held, moved up and out (eg in return from Narnia), and a pair of huge curtains on frames that represent the children’s bedroom on their first night. The play is condensed into a short time with all three trips into the wardrobe occurring the first morning.
I love the two lines of fur coats as Lucy opens the Wardrobe for the first time – two lines of actors in fur coats, swaying together as she strokes the fur on the front ones. As Lucy moves between them, the door is taken away and the actors reverse their coats to white, becoming parts of the snow landscape. When the four children go into the wardrobe, a moving pair of doors is there for them to leap through one at a time, each on a different part of the stage, each then given a fur coat to put on by a cast member.
The snow scenes are depicted by long white ‘pillar’ hangings flown down from high above, that are sometimes trees, sometimes fine wide sheets, plus floor sheets of thin white material that can balloon out and depict the mounds and hollows of the landscape.
The Lamp Post – has a couple of footholds so Lucy can look out over Narnia from it, Tumnus can hide up there, and later a snow creature is ‘one of the trees on our side’. When the four arrive in the snow, their delight is lovely (snow angel by Peter).

Ed is caught up in huge amounts of snow cloud billows, and gets wrapped in it before he meets the Witch. The Witch is first seen up on the high structure, but later the ensemble forms her sleigh/the reindeer. The Witch’s servants are called Cruels but she also calls them minions; their white costumes have padded heads and bottoms. One of them has a different accent, is the ‘dwarf’ character, and makes ironic funny remarks (when Ed gets to the castle, she says “Hullo Edmund, how’ve yer been?” as if they cared)
There is wonderful ensemble work, every moment is choreographed! A great deal is shown in actions and physical response, reducing the dialogue in these parts – very cinematic.

Narnians mostly speak in RP (posh English - think Will Mosley), whereas the children speak good local Yorkshire accents and slang, and the Professor and his household are all Scottish (to show that the children have gone far away from home). The Professor also has a cat called Schrodinger, which he says is very old. It seems to be an extension of himself, or just a link to the Lion. He himself is mysterious, fun, and childlike, and apparently afraid of Mrs McCready. As the staff, the ensemble are all dressed in traditional black with white aprons, and as the children walk around the edge of the stage when they arrive, the staff turn to chorus “Hellooo” in a good Scots accent, showing that some of them are bearded males – a bit of fun for the audience.

Tumnus is nicely goatish, crouching on a footstool while Lucy sits on an armchair. He sings his own song, beautifully written and sung – during which we see aerial ballet (a dryad), a butterfly puppet on stage, movement by the white minions, plus the mysterious White Stag standing up on the tall structure.

The Beavers’ home, like Tumnus’ is simply depicted with a small number of items carried on and off. With a change in gender roles in this production, Mrs Beaver is the Resistance Spy they meet out in the snow, and Mr Beaver is at home (making Narnia Hot-pot) keeping in touch by tin-can radio with her and others a squirrel, a fox and a badger.

As the play starts, a woman blows a whistle and starts organising the evacuees (us) – people in charge of each carriage (the parts of the seating) report all present. The final section has four missing; the Pevensies run down an aisle shouting ‘Wait for us’, with Edmund wanting to run back and give Mummy one more kiss (establishing they are child characters).
The train journey is cleverly shown in ensemble, with a steam engine model (and smoke) pulling carriages (fake suitcases with lighted windows on each side) over the heads of the ensemble, and through landscapes created by their various positions. Picking the evacuees – only the Pevensies are left, and Ed starts trying to walk home, while they talk about why they are here (establishing background). Eventually Mrs McCready arrives on an old fashioned 3-wheeler cycle, and they follow her.

Meeting the Prof – he is up the ladder (? in his library -later Lucy runs up there to cry, when the others don’t believe her) – the children give their names, and he gives the meaning of them. These are echoed later in the coronation.

Notes on my way home:

Audience participation: The Evacuation tickets are green – because in the spring thaw they become leaves and we wave them at the Witch to show that her power is going. Lots of fun as the Witch and her minions react to it, and the good animals point it out. Still later when it is summer some huge flat flowers are passed down the aisles and across the audience - allowing us to feel part of it – before they are laid onto the stage for the coronation.

Stage and Stone Table – both look to be make of black rock, but the stage is not solid. It has two circular trapdoors used by animals and for magically producing Turkish Delight etc. There are some crannies for green shoots and flowers to come up in the spring. It is not the usual stage. There are ‘crazy paving’ lines across it, which I first think are luminous white paint, but they change to red and to green as the story progresses; cleverly lit or some special strip lighting?
The Stone Table is carried on in big uneven pieces and assembled during a sequence. In its centre I think there is a trapdoor down to a door in the stage, which Aslan exits through during the earthquake. This trapdoor in the stage is also used to dispose of the Witch when she is defeated.

Animal costumes – they are all basically dressed in WW2 era clothing plus ears/tail/hats etc. Mrs Beaver is in a full overall suit; both the Beavers carry huge snowshoes on their backs, to suggest their tails. The radio communication between several in the second half uses suitable call names such as Badger Badger and Foxtrot. At the end of the conversation they give the slogan “Narnians Unite!” and waggle their front paw like a salute.

Aslan – after hearing/reading about the big puppet Aslan made by someone who made the horses for the War Horse play, and having seen the Ontario production in 2016, I was expecting a good puppet lion. I am surprised to have a man playing him on two legs as well, not just speaking the dialogue. The puppet is a bit like a Chinese Dragon on poles, with a waving tail, but incomplete, no lower jaw and somewhat skeletal. The puppet leaves the stage and the human version stays on to do the next scenes. The grey-haired actor (who also plays the Professor) wears a bulky fur coat, but no real attempt at a mane. He has a lovely deep voice, but he is not Aslan to me. When Aslan is shaved and tied down, the evil creatures (in scary masks) throw large pieces of the fur up in the air, while surrounding him – I think this is when a double comes in, so that Aslan will be able to return whole from a far corner of the theatre. The killing itself is not minimised, and the Witch gets a full monologue, but even the evil creatures turn their faces away as the knife goes in.
After the resurrection scene, the puppet comes back on and two little wings unfold from its sides for the flying scene. The girls fly with Aslan, not on his back (a bit Peter Pan). This bit is disappointing as if it hasn't been thought through, or an idea was not able to be used.

The White Stag is played by the same actor as Maugrim, whose bare upper body has makeup ribs/scars on his back, ripples his body menacingly. He portrays Maugrim very well with an upper head mask and excellent movement. When he is the White Stag, he comes in on white stilts and long white elbow crutches. His body is partly covered by shiny white material, but theMaugrim ribs are showing - very clear that this is the same actor – what are the audience meant to take from this? I don’t think this has been done well: the character makes a short, odd appearance, and then disappears.
The end of the play has arrived, and the return to our world is sudden. The long white coats they have donned, during a short narration by Mrs Beaver about their long reign, are pulled off, they leap out (without doors - why?) and are back. The final exchange with the Professor is well done, not overdone, and nowhere does he say he has actually been there.

My favourite character is Father Christmas; he is first seen as a puppet on poles, flying behind reindeer puppets, rather comical, while the children and Beavers are hiding. There are clear sleighbell sounds, so we know it is not the Witch arriving. Then the actor comes on – he is a delight and gets applause. This FC wears a large tunic of long strips of red over a white shirt, he has a curved-over pointy red hat, striped stockings, and green clogs. He does an energetic clog dance, and then sings his lines for giving the gifts rather like a free incantation – with what breath he has available! As well as the children’s gifts, he brings a trolley of party food, and the group of animals there has the party and is turned to stone by the Witch afterwards.

The children are played by mixed race adult actors (with African heritage). No attempt has been made to portray age/size relation so Lucy is bigger than Susan, and the script doesn't suggest she is youngest, just that Peter is oldest. Two of them are fresh out of drama school. They have the local accents and expressions – not RP kids from London – which I think will appeal to locals. Lucy wears a loose grey school tunic over a pink top, Susan a grey sleeveless pullover over blue top and lighter blue shorts, boys in shirts, sleeveless pullovers, and shorts. Of the four, I think Peter's role is hardest, mostly action and little emotion.

Musicians – the musicians also play roles - a fox, a hedgehog and a badger and the singing and dancing Father Christmas himself!
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Re: A new stage production of LWW

Postby King_Erlian » Jan 15, 2018 3:27 am

I was coracle's companion yesterday, and was knocked out by how fabulous the show was! I'd only seen one stage adaptation of LWW before this, about ten years ago I think, which was pretty static and dull, but this production was so energetic and lively. One thing that struck me was that you couldn't join the cast if you were scared of heights! Many of the ensemble (including Edmund) climbed ropes and the white sheeting hung from the ceiling and made ballet-like movements suspended high above the ground. The actor playing Edmund was a fabulous dancer.

I felt the production was true to the spirit of the original novel, even though it didn't retain all that much of Lewis' original dialogue (all the upper-middle-class boarding school slang was removed, for instance). At the end there was a great joyful dance from all the cast, something which was missing from the Walden films (the romp in Prince Caspian).

The only thing I wasn't quite so keen on was that Peter came over as something of an incompetent wimp, not the leader of the four children. The two girls appeared much more confident and resourceful - it was Susan who killed Maugrim with her bow and arrow, not Peter with his sword.

I did like Aslan's character very much. One of the most moving moments (which had me in tears) was when Edmund was presented to Aslan. When the other three met him for the first time, Aslan gave them a flower each. Then when Edmund was presented to him, he gave Edmund the fourth flower, then hugged him.

The same actor played Aslan and the Professor, and the same actress played Mrs Macready and the White Witch - but it wasn't obvious. In the production I saw ten years ago, the same thing happened but it was (painfully) obvious, which suggested that the whole Narnian adventure had been just a dream.

At the end, when the children returned to England, they discovered the flowers that Aslan had given them, proving to them that their adventure had been real.

Now, can this company do the other six books? Please?
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Re: A new stage production of LWW

Postby coracle » Jan 16, 2018 12:59 pm

The quality of this production is shown in many ways. One of them is that this afternoon, I went to see The Greatest Showman, and on the way home was humming a tune which I thought was one of the songs.
Then I realised that it was from this LWW production!! :)
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Re: A new stage production of LWW

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » Jan 16, 2018 3:39 pm

King_Erlian wrote:The only thing I wasn't quite so keen on was that Peter came over as something of an incompetent wimp, not the leader of the four children. The two girls appeared much more confident and resourceful - it was Susan who killed Maugrim with her bow and arrow, not Peter with his sword.


Susan Wolf's-Bane? :-o I guess they thought that the character needed more to do... I actually can't recall any moments focused on just Susan in LWW, at least compared to her siblings. The one that stands out the most in my mind is Aslan's death and resurrection, but Lucy is just as involved there. If they thought she needed more attention, though, I think maybe they could have come up with something better than turning Peter into a wimp and knighting Susan instead. ;))

Other than that, sounds like a nice production! I'm glad both of you were able to see it. :)
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Re: A new stage production of LWW

Postby Valiant_Nymph » May 04, 2018 4:36 pm

I wish there was a production happening in my area! They look so lovely.
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