Can you imagine a world without Christmas? Can you imagine a perpetual winter that never ends, a subjugated people forever waiting for someone or something to save them from a power hungry, ruthless, greedy, unforgiving and self-serving megalomaniac? Can a leader who sacrificed himself for his people be resurrected to once again lead an army of the of the righteous to defeat tyranny? C.S Lewis’s Christian allegory is as relevant today as it was when it was first published, and this Immersive re-imagined version penned and Directed by Mrs Emily McGhee lays the challenge firmly at our feet.
As the audience waited in a holding room to be taken on their tour of the “Pevensie Estate” there was a palpable sense of anticipation for what was to come. Eventually, they were led away by the austere Mrs Macready (Cici Casey) and complete with audio guide were given a tour of the “Estate”. It is here that the adventure truly began. Our intercom was interrupted by a voice from another world and Professor Digory Kirk called us to action to save Narnia. Instructed to carry on as normal, guests were asked to find a way to get rid of their guide. Walking into the professor’s study Mrs Macready disappeared to fix some “broken” headphones and we were thrown into the narrative.
Audience members looked around the study and found themselves immediately immersed in the incredibly detailed set brought to fruition by Mr Hamish Ellis and his able team of Miss Emma Wallis and Mr Nick Johnson. At this point you would be forgiven for thinking that this is where the story would unfold, but after Ivy the maid (Poppy Higgins) introduced us to the history of Narnia and her connection to it, there was a knock on the wardrobe and Lucy Pevensie (Amelie Lambie-Proctor) appeared in a beautifully constructed period costume (Suzie Inglis) and invited us through the wardrobe full of fur coats. Then the real magic began, as we stepped through the portal we were greeted with falling snow, enchanting atmospheric soundscapes, furs to wear, and low and behold the lamp post where Mr Tumnus is supposed to be meeting us. He was nowhere to be seen, but there were scattered pages of a book littered around. We began to search through them and pieced together a clue that directed us onwards.
We were on the roller coaster by now and were carried through an exquisitely constructed Narnia into ransacked houses to watch the wolves plot their corruption (Matt Gosper, Josh Reynolds, Cam Reader, Chris Pyle, Annie Radbourne) through tunnels to the beavers house (Max McClay, Ruby Dickson) on through the magical and harmonious world of the watery Naiads (Honor Reid, Maya Magee, Poppy Edmonds, Tia Radkiewicz, Maddy Pollard) and the riddle obsessed puppet Giant Rumblebuffin (Max St John, Jeremy Davis, Hugh Holland-Creaven). Greeted at the gates of Cair Paravel by the leopard guards (Dillon Stingemore, Alice Andreeva) King Peter (Luke Andrews) directed us onwards into mission HQ where we helped to formulate a strategy and were taught combat skills by foxes and satyrs (Chessie Gillott, Emily Hough, Zac Partridge, Jess Edwards). Onward to archery lessons with Susan (Lotty Cunningham), and with Edmund (Toby Escolme) into the wintery palace of the intensely evil White Witch (Elsa Hardcastle) resplendent with live pine trees, more snow and Turkish delight. Here we discovered the captured Mr Tumnus (Hugo Puddle) guarded by the crazed Banshee (Maddie Atkin) and contorted Ginarrbrik (Jesse Dunbar) and found a way to free him.
With Tumnus in tow, we discovered the captured Professor (Arthur Handscomb) at Santa’s abandoned sleigh and moved onto solving a giant jigsaw puzzle, which saw us moving the stones of the stone table to bring Aslan (Ollie Corbett) back to life. Sent onwards on our quest we passed through the beautifully set and choreographed Dryads (Fifi Robinson, Ella Steidle, Bella Hazell, Frankie D’agata) at the tree of life, where we discovered the lost wand and carried it to the final battle for Narnia. No sooner did we save Narnia and banish the White Witch, did we step through a portal to be greeted by the somewhat disgruntled Mrs Macready wanting to know where we have been, before sending us away with a ticking off.
What a wonderful experience, both for young and old in the audience to be transported so completely into a fantasy world. The execution of what really is a mammoth undertaking was faultless, with attention to detail in all areas of set, costume, makeup, props, and of course outstanding performances from an extremely talented group of actors, supported so professionally by the student technical team of (Oscar Seyfried Herbert, Macca Garlick, Henry Macpherson, Tiger Cronk, Miles Taylor, Libby Ohlson, Tom Francis, Bea Roberts, Hugo Bonsey, Sam Kerr, Max Shutte, Joel Barker and Becky Quintavalle).
How this level of show is created in what is an incredibly busy environment is a real testament to the hard work, creativity and dedication of all involved. I am very proud to work alongside them.