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The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe


Gillian Lynne Theatre


The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Gillian Lynne Theatre

Reviewed – 28th July 2022



“Samantha Womack’s ice-queen witch stops short of caricature to give a cool, sassy and sexy performance”


The temptation to litter this review of “The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe” with spoilers is almost impossible to resist. Except that the protectors of the ‘Magic Circle’ would soon come knocking. Needless to say, Michael Fentiman’s stage adaptation is, in plain language, truly magical. Literally, emotionally and visually. Escapism personified.

We enter a war-torn Britain circa 1940. A lone pianist is gradually joined by the full ensemble while the melancholic strains of ‘We’ll Meet Again’ crescendo in beautiful harmony. This in turn gives way to the blitz and the exodus of London’s child population. Among the throng are Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy Pevensie, who are whisked away to Aberdeen and the forbidding, country house of the eccentric Professor Kirke. You know the rest – besides which, the title says it all.

Fentiman’s unique stamp is visible from the outset, with the cast comprising actor-musicians that conjure echoes of his ‘Amélie the Musical’; with soaring notes of Cirque du Soleil and knowing winks to Emma Rice. Throw in a touch of ‘Wonderville’ and the picture is complete. Tom Paris’ outstanding costume, with Toby Olié’s puppetry, are not just the icing on the cake, but crucial ingredients; as are Jack Knowles lighting, and the shattering soundscape provided by Ian Dickinson and Gareth Tucker. Although it cannot quite be described as a musical, Benji Bower’s and Barnaby Race’s score runs through it, frequently bursting into full blown choral numbers, around which choreographer Shannelle ‘Tali’ Fergus has staged some beautifully poetic, stylised and devilishly stylish movement.

As always, it is tempting to over-read the allegories. But the story does resonate particularly vibrantly now in its celebration of the coming together of individuals to overcome the darkest of winters. Narnia has been frozen for the past hundred years by the White Witch (Samantha Womack). Delainey Hayles’ Lucy is the first to stumble through the wardrobe into the forbidding kingdom, before persuading her siblings (Ammar Duffus, Shaka Kalokoh and Robyn Sinclair) to ‘believe’ in Narnia and join her. Can they overcome the usurper witch and restore the rightful ruler – the Christlike Aslan?

Well, we all know the answer. But it is the journey that leads us there that is the crux. Jez Unwin’s Mr Tumnus is the first to dole out lessons in betrayal and forgiveness, while the glorious pair – Julian Hoult as Mr Beaver and Christina Tedders as Mrs Beaver – dish out their unique blend of comic relief. Chris Jared, disconnected from the imposing puppet, is the impressive and magisterial voice of the lion, Aslan, while Samantha Womack’s ice-queen witch stops short of caricature to give a cool, sassy and sexy performance. The ensemble stops short of upstaging the protagonists, instead surrounding, infiltrating and complimenting the action with perfect precision and timing.

The story is timeless, a quality reflected in the fantastical nature of this staging. It transcends the family show boundaries often imposed on this genre of theatre. There has to be a sufficient amount of darkness for light to banish it. We’ve been through some pretty shadowy times of late, but it serves to magnify the hope and redemption we grasp afterwards. “The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe” is a show that exemplifies that. And it throws in all the eccentricities of life too.

Escape through the wardrobe and watch with an open mind. That way you will let all the wonder in.



Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg


The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Gillian Lynne Theatre until 8th January 2023


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Cinderella | ★★★★★ | August 2021


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Say My Name! – 3 Stars


Say My Name!

Theatre N16

Reviewed – 16th October 2018


“largely makes up for its shortfalls in this area with a brand of irreverent comedy that’s deeply alluring”


It’s more or less unanimously agreed that Breaking Bad is one of the greatest TV series of all time, spanning 62 hours of nigh-on flawless storytelling, writing, and acting. So it’s an unenviable job to adapt that into a 90-minute musical comedy, but it’s one that Rob Gathercole (writer, composer and lyricist) has undertaken. Somewhat surprisingly, the Herculean task pays off overall.

Say My Name! follows the story of its source material; that of Walter White, a chemistry teacher who, upon being diagnosed with cancer, teams up with Jesse Pinkman to cook crystal meth and ultimately raise and lose a drug empire. However, if you haven’t already seen Breaking Bad, most of the plot will make little sense as it’s all skimmed over so quickly. Despite dedicating the entire opening song to exposition, it still comes across as muddy, and the show takes a little while to find its groove. As a result of this, Walter is introduced without any sort of understanding of what’s really motivating him, which does a disservice to the story and allows for very little payoff at the show’s end. Thankfully, Say My Name! largely makes up for its shortfalls in this area with a brand of irreverent comedy that’s deeply alluring.

Deftly sending up the characters and their exploits, the humour is gleefully inane and self-referential. Particular highlights include covering the entire third season in a single song, depicting a train robbery as a silent film, and Walter’s son being a cockney puppet – creative staging choices such as these generated immense laughter and allowed the show to jump out from the shadow of the source material. Most of the actors also managed to amplify the essence of their characters to near pantomimic levels to excellent effect, especially Scott Brooks as drug enforcement agent Hank and henchman Mike, and Rebecca Levy as Jesse and Hank’s wife Marie. However, certain characters such as the neurotic Lydia felt like they were overplayed and subsequently fell flat in their delivery.

The songs are also played by the cast and cover a huge range of styles and timbres, from rap to country to swing, and were all sung and performed marvellously. However, many of the songs felt underdeveloped, often being quite short and repetitious in their lyrics. Additionally, some motifs featured a cumbersome number of reprises that did not feel like they were adding any further layers to their meanings.

Consequently, Say My Name! often feels at odds with the show it’s trying to parody, buckling under the weight of the sheer amount of plot that it’s trying to condense. The opportunities for songs and scenes to explore characters and allow comic situations to play out more fully falls to the wayside in favour of continued exposition, but in the moments where the show leans into its more absurd humour, it manages to transcend being just a Breaking Bad parody into something much more addictive.


Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography by Rob Gathercole


Say My Name!

Theatre N16 until 2nd November


Previously reviewed at Theatre N16:
Unicorn | ★★★½ | May 2018
Shakespeare’s Mad Women | ★★★★ | June 2018
Reading Gaol | ★★★½ | July 2018
Castles Palaces Castles | ★★ | September 2018
Rough | ★★ | September 2018
Timeless | ★★★ | October 2018


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