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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe review at Birmingham Rep – ‘magic’

Allison McKenzie, Nuno Silva with puppeteers David Albury and James Charlton. Photo: Graeme Braidwood

Adrian Mitchell’s 1998 musical adaptation of CS Lewis’ classic children’s tale is given a new lease of life in this imaginative Birmingham Repertory Theatre production.

Directed by Tessa Walker, it’s packed full of action as four children leave behind a time of wartime evacuation and enter a magical wardrobe into the mysterious world of Narnia.

The country where it’s always winter but never Christmas is beautifully crafted by Jamie Vartan’s sets, which take on a simple yet striking contrast once the snow starts to melt.

Much of the theatrical magic of this world is created by the wonderful puppetry which imparts lifelike mannerisms to hand-held squirrels and robins. The piece de resistance is an impressive three-person Aslan, whose forbidding stature, undulating movement and realistic head movement evokes the animal might of the National Theatre’s long-running War Horse.

He is certainly given a worthy adversary in Allison McKenzie’s White Witch who stalks around the stage switching from calm and menacing royalty to screeching banshee at a stroke.

The likeable children are joined by Sophia Nomvete as Mrs Beaver and Jo Servi as Mr Tumnus in a production that has improved with age. It’s understandably slicker than its debut, and Shaun Davey’s music has stood the test of time: strong, powerful songs that propel the audience into this other world.

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Verdict
CS Lewis’ children’s classic is given a new lease of life in a show packed full of magic, puppetry and music
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