Review: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Magic may or may not remain in Uncle Digory’s house, but it definitely does on the stage of Pacific Theatre in their adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ beloved children’s book, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.  But this is not the magic of special effects, lavish costumes or elaborate sets, but the magic of great theatre.  And indeed theatre doesn’t get much better than this with a perfect mix of story, technical expertise and actors who transport us easily to a different time and place.

Years after their adventures in Narnia, Lucy (Donna-Lea Ford) and Peter (Kyle Rideout) return to their uncle’s mansion and the spare room with the large wardrobe, where they once embarked on their childhood adventure.  As easily as when they were children, Lucy and Peter begin reliving their story one more time as they discover that not only does magic remain within that wardrobe but, more importantly, within themselves.

It is this child-like, but not childish, quality of Ford and Rideout that allows this stripped down version of this massive story to be as successful as it is.  With Ford and Rideout allowing themselves to play, they easily capture the wonder of Narnia and as a result, transport us along with them, ensuring that even those that might not be familiar with the story are not left behind.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Kyle Rideout and Donna-Lea Ford star in the Pacific Theatre production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

This is a definite bare-bones production for such a grand story, but it was immediately evident that each element, including lighting, set, sound and costumes has been painstakingly chosen.  Director Kerry van der Griend’s vision here has come together where each of these elements only serves to enhance the other but is delicately balanced with the realization that the story really is, with apologies to the Bard, the thing.

Matt Frankish’s lighting design easily moves us from the numerous locales from the simple overhead light of the spare room to the icy blue hues of the woods outside Mr Tumnus’ cave to the warm glow of the sunrise as Aslan is reborn.  Naomi Sider uses the furs inside the wardrobe to great effect as the two actors play the various characters including a red-lined coat used inside out by the big man himself.  And while Properties Manager Jessica Howell, like the other technical aspects of this show, uses each of the few props wisely, the real star of this technical quartet has to be Corina Akeson and Jeff Tymoshuk’s sound design providing the audience with tiny gifts of music and effects that were both dazzling and perfect in their execution.

In his playbill notes, Artistic Director Ron Reed tells us that with the confines of the stage it simply would not be possible to present their own “depictions of all the products of the author’s mind”.  Fortunately for us though, Reed and his company did not look at the re-telling of this epic story as an impossibility, but rather as an opportunity for the audience to share in creating great theatre in the same way Lewis does with his books, with our imaginations and the imaginations of those involved in this production.

Whether you are, like me, a fan of the book from childhood, a parent who has recently told the story to your children at bedtime, or discovering it for the very first time, you simply cannot miss the magic that is happening on stage here in what is a near perfect piece of theatre.

5 out of 5 StarsThe Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
Pacific Theatre,  1420 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver
13 November 2009 – 2 January 2010

Tickets are $11 – $34 available by calling 604.731.5518 or online at

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