NODA representative, Jon Fox, reviews the recent production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by The Nomads at The Nomad Theatre in Surrey (find us).
The NOMADS – “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”
Nomad Theatre – 14th December, 2016
“This fascinating novel from the mighty pen of C S Lewis is the best known of the Chronicles of Narnia and is a good choice for a company such as Nomads, who have several talented children as players. Set in wartime 1940, when the four Pevensie siblings, Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy were evacuated to the Dorset countryside to live with the Professor – unnamed in this production, but Digory Kirke in the novel – and a scary housekeeper, Mrs Macready, the story revolved around the adventures of the four children in Narnia, reached via a prominently placed wardrobe.
An opening set of the children’s bedroom contained four single beds (with bedding) and a wooden chair and table with sewing machine (for Mrs Beaver to use later) set downstage left. A prominent and effective looking street lamp stood downstage right. The winter Narnia scene was beautifully set out with snowy landscapes and icicles up left. Tinkling winter music enhanced the magical effect.
The four leading players were three children and a very young adult. They were, in age order, Hazel Eve as Peter (late teens), Poppy Finnigan as Susan aged 12, Ethan Tang as Edmund aged 10 and Eleanor Cain as Lucy, also aged 10. Hazel as Peter, the oldest sibling was a most accomplished actor, dressed in boy’s garb (shorts and pullover), and had the natural authority of an oldest child. This was a performance that will long remain in Hazel’s memory in years to come though she is already an experienced performer for her age, it must be said. Ethan as wilful, naughty Edmund, had amazingly good body language, which I noticed straight away. He had wonderful diction too, as did all the siblings – Eleanor as Lucy, the object of Edmund’s lies, had real actor’s truth in her protestation of having previously been in Narnia. later proven as the truth. The brother / sisterly teasing and protesting was so well done. If we did not know that all drama playing children were practically perfect in every way, at home, etc. I could have sworn that they had sometimes actually been naughty in real life, so natural was their playing. Forgive the teasing, it really is a compliment! Poppy as Susan, the second eldest child, initially disbelieving Lucy, but believing that Lucy was merely game playing, rather than lying, was a key force for good in the plot. Her tenderness towards Aslan and courage in defying the Witch, showing her steely character. Another extremely mature performance for a mere 12 year old.
Helen Dixon as the White Witch was evil personified. She has enormous stage presence, with superb timing and diction and clearly relished playing this evil character as much as I certainly did watching and admiring. As the Witch’s “alter ego”, Mrs Macready, her bossiness and disdain for young children was made, rather marvellously, richly evident. Her demise (as the Witch) was wonderfully portrayed!
In stark contrast, Owain Williams, who was also the kindly yet mysterious Professor, endowed Aslan the Lion with a calm stoicism and timeless force for good. To my mind there were definite similarities to the story of Christ sacrificing his mortal life to save others. C S Lewis surely intended this thought. Owain had the aura both as Professor and Aslan, so vital in these, giving a titanic performance. There were distinct Biblical parallels!
Michael Ayres as the scary Maugrim, in magnificent costume and facial make up (including coloured contact lenses and wolf’s teeth), was marvellously horrible. Much heavy breathing (think Donald Trump with asthma), plus a horrifying howl …… lovely! Voraciously evil and eventually slain by Peter.
Matt Weaver, new to acting as his programme CV stated (though one would not have realised) was an athletic and kindly Mr Tumnus, the fawn greeting Lucy, whilst carrying an umbrella and two parcels and inviting her home for tea, but with a view to betraying her to the witch. Stick with the acting Matt, it suits you!
Iain Watson and Elaine Burns as Mr and Mrs Beaver, protecting the children in their home where Mrs Beaver sat sewing and welcoming. Warm and skilled portrayals were given by both players, their vast acting experience being obvious.
Colin Barnard was an affable and well played Father Christmas. No trainsets or playstations here, but rather a sword, dagger and magic potion. But he was accompanied by an elf, three (girly) reindeer and, glory be, Jingle Bells with dancing, A most effective scene.
Several keen and agile young folk played various creatures. The dance of the tiny animals was carried out charmingly by Izzy Teasdale (Rabbit / Leopard 1), Jenny Bridges (Deer / Leopard 2) and Amelia Potten (Deer / Leopard 3). All these young players did themselves proud in this production. Another young performer who did well was Emily Ingold, just a little older and a fairly recent school leaver, playing Santa’s Elf and the Wolf, later slain by Peter and carried off by Maurgrim. Amelia Tang was a sinister dwarf.
It is immensely healthy that NOMADS have these young folk coming up, hard on the heels of the older generation.
I was impressed by the scenery in this production; the winter scenes were spectacular and made me shiver, merely watching. The statues and stone table were excellent too. The Witch’s sledge was also realistic. The in-house set construction team of Tony and Dee Bowdery, Justin Cobb, Ben Egan, Andrew Hamel-Cooke, Iain Macfarlane, David Martin, Anne Thomas, and Clive Vinall deserve a special mention for the superb creations they all made.
Props – I loved the Witch’s whip, by the way – were by Jennie Hamel-Cooke and Tilly Winford, which is good news for the company.
Costumes – again of top quality and effect – were in the capable hands of Sharren Bridges, Elizabeth Cross, Jenny Hasted, Jennie Hamel-Cooke and Caroline Tang.
I would also like to mention the outstanding make up by Anna, Naomi and Becky, all Guildford College students. Absolutely superb work girls!
Spectacular lighting was provided by Tony and Dee and sound by the assured Tim Williams.
Without the expertise of dedicated, capable and unassuming people of this calibre, shows of this top standard are not possible, as all who are true theatre people are fully aware.
Choreography was by Sophie Johnstone and the young people will have learned much from working under her tuition. Much of the dancing was quite charming.
Anthony Kemp was the mighty Director working with Andrew Hamel- Cooke as Artistic director. The work and imagination that both these gentlemen provided in this vibrant production will stay long in the memory, not only of those fortunate enough to be cast on stage but also with the privileged audience.”
NODA District 19
The Nomads are members of NODA, which has a membership of 2500 amateur theatre groups and 3000 individual enthusiasts throughout the UK, staging musicals, operas, plays, concerts and pantomimes in a wide variety of performing venues, ranging from the country’s leading professional theatres to tiny village halls.