The Magician's Nephew
The Magician’s Nephew
Shaw’s Premiere Creates Stage Magic
Slider: Kyle Blair as Aslan with the cast of The Magician’s Nephew. Photo by David Cooper.
Pictured Above: The cast of The Magician’s Nephew. Photo by Emily Cooper.
The Shaw Festival has hit a home run with the CS Lewis inspired book, The Magician’s Nephew, adapted for the stage by Michael O’Brien (whose credits at the Shaw include The Invisible Man in 2006). Directed by Artistic Director Tim Carroll, Magician’s Nephew combines the new wonder of 3D projection with a very minimalist set of corrugate to bring to life Lewis’ 6th Book in the Chronicles of Narnia.
Carroll’s influence at the Shaw is moving the age old theatre into an entirely new direction, especially with their new interactive feature with audiences. By steering the Shaw into a new age Carroll is giving it a much broader appeal, which will ultimately ensure longevity for the world acclaimed theatre. Evidenced by a number of performances from last year such as Androcles and The Lion, Wild Tales and Dracula, the Shaw is becoming less dependent on lavish set design and more on stimulating the imagination with the help of its stellar cast.
The Magician’s Nephew is a prequel to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe which has been a favourite of children, including myself, for decades. The movie release in 2005 was epic and a new resurgence of popularity has beset the classic 7 book series.
The story tells the tale of Digory and Polly, played by Travis Seetoo and Vanessa Sears, two children who decide to explore the attics of adjoining houses. They accidently stumble upon Digory’s mean spirited Uncle Andrew, played brilliantly by Stephen Sutcliffe, and after discovering some magic rings, are quickly transported into the fantasy world of Charn, a world full of mystery and evil.
When Digory rings a bell that awakens the witch queen Jadis, played by Deborah Hay, he unleashes someone wicked into the world and no matter what they try it is impossible to keep her from following them back to their home in London.
Jadis is every bit as dark and evil as she unabashedly admits but her powers do not work in London. Intent on conquering the world, she immediately has Uncle Andrew hire a cabbie and horse to take her about. The cab driver, creatively portrayed by Michael Therriault (Me and My Girl) and his faithful steed Strawberry played by Matt Nethersole go forth with Jadis on a journey of destruction.
Seeing this the two children decide it is necessary to take Jadis away from their home and back into the land of Charn from whence she came. Engaging their magic rings again, they accidentally bringing Uncle Andrew, the cabbie and his horse with them. Instead of landing in Charn, they end up in a dark and empty world where they discover Aslan. Aslan is intent on creating a world without evil and where new life can begin. This world contains animals that can talk, green grass, trees and never ending blue skies.
When Aslan is confronted by the evil Jadis, he banishes her and wraps her up in ice. Digory steps up and take all the blame, and as a punishment Aslan has him embark on a journey to find a tree with special fruit. Strawberry, who has now found his voice, has been given a beautiful set of wings, he will take Digory accompanied by Polly to retrieve the fruit.
Admittedly, it took me about 20 minutes to warm up to the play, I’m used to the Shaw “wowing” the audience with creative scene changes and props, but it wasn’t long before I was pulled into the technology and the ingenious choreography of Alexis Milligan. The clever use of simple cardboard boxes had the cast moving their way on and off the stage giving us the illusions necessary to visualize the story.
And if that wasn’t enough, what was truly a feat of magic, was keeping seven busloads of public school children at the same performance silent for some two plus hours.
The Magician’s Nephew is on til October 13th – you should go!
For tickets visit www.shawfest.com
By Jenifer Cass