Arts & Culture

Imagination play remembered

By Lorraine Graves

Published 11:23 PST, Fri December 7, 2018

If you have any children in your life who love imagination play, take them to Pacific Theatre’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

The play opens on the scene of a room, with furniture draped in dust covers. The tour guide gives her dusty information about the large, British home then departs.

Now-adult brother and sister, Peter and Lucy, enter. While the tour guide’s English accent didn’t pass muster with the Brits in the audience, Peter and Lucy’s did. Set in 1962, these siblings start to recall their great war-time adventure as children in this house, their guardian’s home, where they sheltered without their parents during the blitz.

During their evacuation, the four siblings, two girls and two boys, out of boredom went into the large free-standing closet, a wardrobe, to play in the fur coats. Instead, the back of the wardrobe leads them to a magical world full of speaking animals, figures from mythology and a beautiful but evil queen.

Now, as adults, at first they say, “It’s just a spare room. The magic is gone,” but they start to remember and to relive the siblings’ mystical time beyond the wardrobe. When adult Edmund, becomes the childhood Edmund, the laughter rippled through the audience. He was convincing and fun.

With only two actors, they convey each character clearly, with humour and delight. Their accents change. Their body language changes and each time, we eagerly suspend our disbelief as the adult characters remember their mystical time in the land beyond the wardrobe, Narnia.

As the adventure is relived, the music heightens the effect. The lighting changes from the dusty room to the land of perpetual winter.

John Voth masterfully goes from a man to a petulant boy to a faun, half-man half deer, with his voice, his body language, his costumes and his voice. Then, as a beaver, chatting away in yet another believable UK accent, he elicited children’s laughter from the other side of the theatre. A true delight that only heightened the experience for us jaded adults.

Rebecca DeBoer offers an equally masterful performance as she transforms through different human ages and animal characters into the magnificent lion who sacrifices himself for the good of others. As the evil queen, she is regal and scary, but not too scary for little ones.

With white sheets used so effectively to set the scene in a multitude of ways, I suspect many homes with young children will have to open their linen closets for those wanting to play The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. A couple of fur coats, fake or real, would not go amiss either.

Testing out my theory, that this might just stimulate more imagination play, I asked two little girls at intermission if they were going to play The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe later.

Her reply, “Yes. I’m Lucy and she’s Susan,” naming two of the play’s characters.

Judging by how quickly everyone in the audience spontaneously rose to their feet to offer a standing ovation as the play ended, it is a crowd-pleaser. A real triumph for Richmondite, Shelby Wyminga, the play’s assistant director as well as the entire crew including director, Sarah Rodgers and other Richmondite, Ron Reed, the artistic director of Pacific Theatre.

At this time of year, you may want something that is not directly related to Christmas. Some families spend their money on experiences rather than things. Tickets to this would be a great gift for Christmas or whatever festival you celebrate this season. With themes of good and evil, free will, and redemption there is something for everyone in this production.

And, if you can’t borrow a child, you might just want to go on your own.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe plays at Pacific Theatre, 1440 W. 12 Ave., (at Hemlock) Vancouver through Dec. 29 with 2 p.m. Saturday matinees for those who can’t stay up too late.

To buy tickets online or phone: 604-731-5518.

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