Last night a mostly pint-sized audience travelled to the whimsical, magical world of Narnia for the sold-out opening show of The Magician’s Nephew, presented by the 9th Hour Theatre Company.
It’s the first show of their series “Into the Wardobe”, a set of four shows exploring the works of beloved author C.S. Lewis. Adapted from the novel of the same name, the story is a prequel to the other books in the Narnia series, it explains how Aslan the lion created the world and how evil came to exist in it.
While many parents are likely excited to share their memories of Narnia with the little ones, don’t worry if you aren’t well acquainted with the stories. The show is perfect as a stand alone show and will keep your little ones quietly engaged throughout.
The story tells of the adventures young Digory (Darren Emery) and Polly (Sarah Stapleton) face after being tricked into adventure by Digory’s Uncle Andrew (Paul Washer) and his magic rings. The small stage in the Centrepointe Studio transforms from an Attic in London, to the dark, dying world of Charn, to the bright, new world of Narnia and back again through the clever use of lighting, physicality of the actors and a versatile set of props.
A perfectly family friendly show, it manages to be serious without being too serious. It seems a lot of children’s programming relies on comedy, but this adaptation doesn’t try to sell the ideas of choosing to be good or keeping your promises with slapstick. Not to worry, there are enough opportunities for giggles, especially when Uncle Andrew is on stage, that little ones won’t feel like they are being lectured.
The highlight of the show from the little ones I talked to was most certainly the cast of Narnia animals. They managed to keep in character without fail, knowing children don’t always focus on where the main action is happening. Most impressive was the 15’ Aslan puppet, voiced and controlled by Ken Tucker, which really felt like a magical larger than life lion on stage.
If you’re looking to rekindle your love of Lewis’ work as an adult, I’d advise you give this show a pass and wait for the rest of the season. Meant to be family friendly, the straightforward dialogue and pace might be a bit slow for you.
If, however, you’re looking to keep the little ones from complaining about a boring March break this show will do the trick. The afternoon shows are a great option to keep them busy, with an interactive segment after the show (there was an amazing spread of treats and a chance for kids to talk to the actors at the opening night reception). Just remember to tuck your rings away when you get home.