The Tea Tree Players’ youth show in the July school holidays is The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, as dramatised by Joseph Robinette.
In a common story of Covid woes, this production had a shorter preparation time that usual and directors Rhi Shapcott and Kristyn Barnes are to be applauded for getting this show to the standard it achieved on opening night.
In general, the ensemble was cohesive and well blocked, but one could see that an extra week of rehearsal would have allowed for extra depth and life to permeate through this very confident and competent cast.
This adaptation of the story, pares back the episodes to the core passages and characters and, as a result, it shuffles along at a great pace that other theatre companies and writers would do well to emulate.
The four sons and daughters of Adam and Eve – Peter (Matthew Visciglio), Lucy (Gaby Taylor), Edmund (Zack Brittan), Susan (Ashlee Brown), the White Witch (Max Shapcott), and Aslan the lion (Clinton Nitschke), become engaged in conflict as actions lead to the fulfillment of a prophecy, marked by the appearance of four humans at “the table”.
Despite the restricted preparation time, there are some noteworthy performances in this production that should herald the imminent emergence of some new actors of calibre. Gaby Taylor had good stage presence and was engaged even when not delivering lines (one of the hallmarks of a maturing actor). Clinton Nitschke wore the lion costume well and although there was some stiffness in his performance, he was able to speak in a commanding way and brought moments of joy when he roared. My 11yo companion quite enjoyed Jimmy White’s cockney-ish Mr Beaver. Max Shapcott strode the stage with purpose and clearly enjoyed delivering her “cackle”. And Zack Brittan’s lost-then-found Edmund was played well and portrayed the character’s journey in a most endearing manner.
The directors are to be commended for the set design, especially the wardrobe that initially sat centre stage, protruding from the curtain. Our first glimpse into it was mystical and Tardus-like, as it opened into a colourful, storybook rendering of Narnia. Jo Allenby and Monday Club did a stellar job with costumes, and the makeup was as detailed as it was colourful.
This production gently evoked some “deep magic” and with some extra time would surely have achieved even “deeper magic”.