UPDATE (10/14/2014): The play’s run has been extended until Oct. 25. The article has been amended to reflect this.
UVic’s Phoenix Theatre celebrated the opening night of its two-person production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on Oct. 9. Starring two UVic theatre department graduates, Kaitlin Williams and Mack Gordon, the Phoenix production of C.S. Lewis’s classic children’s novel pays tribute to the magic of childhood despite the pressure of the outside world.
Adapted by Artistic Director Ron Reed, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe takes place eight years after the children’s adventures in Narnia. Peter (Mack Gordon) and Lucy (Kaitlin Williams) have returned to Uncle Digory’s house as adults, where they relive all the magic of their first trip to Narnia.
Making use of the simple set—two lamps, an armchair and footstool, a wooden chest draped in a blanket, and, of course, a wardrobe—the two-person cast embodied the entire cast of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by donning different fur coats and blankets.
Shifts in location and emotional atmosphere were portrayed to great effect by the warming or cooling of the stage lights, which shifted from warm auburn for locations such as Mr. Tumnus’s cave, to cool blue tones for the White Witch’s castle and the winter environment of Narnia. This manipulation of light was by far the most inspired and clever technique in the production. Kudos to Lauchlin Johnston, the lighting designer, for his expert use of colour, which sprinkled the production with a hint of magic.
Though the play was limited by the two-person casting, each of the actors proved their talent. Mack Gordon’s humorous renditions of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver provoked spurts of laughter from the audience and Kaitlin Williams displayed astounding versatility in her performance. Her voice portrayal of the White Witch, in particular, was haunting in its authenticity.
Unfortunately, the Phoenix production, though successful in its chosen style, may not be for everyone. Lovers of C.S. Lewis’s work may find a hidden gem in this production, but for the average playgoer the pace could feel a little slow. Clocking at 90 minutes, including an intermission, it became hard for the play to sustain its story telling method, which relied heavily upon narrative exposition and the audience’s willingness to imagine what the actors could not clearly portray.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe will be at the UVic Phoenix Theatre until Oct. 25. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit finearts.uvic.ca/theatre/phoenix/.