Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

quartet of children

The Pevensie evacuees, Susan, left, played by Courtney Smith-Reid, Edmund, played by Ilya-Rose Hussain, Peter, played by Joseph Kilker and Lucy played by Phoebe O'Reilly. Pictures: Roy Palmer

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Hall Green Little Theatre


C S Lewis’s fantasy novel is not the easiest to stage. You need a creaky old mansion, a blizzard swept artic landscape, a load of animals from beavers to wolves as well as a white witch and, of course, a lion, with the only easy bit the wardrobe, but despite all the hurdles to overcome Hall Green Youth Theatre make a decent fist of creating Narnia in the Signature studio.

This is a family show and the greatest special effect yet discovered is a child’s imagination and watching the delight and wonder on the faces of some of the youngster on the front row, a white painted floor became snow and a man in a mask became a lion and the Queen really was a scary wicked witch.

Theatre for youngsters comes down to simple storytelling and Hall Green did that well.

white witch

Maisie-Leigh Jones as the White Witch

There were some adults to push up the average age with co-directors Daniel Robert Beaton and Richard Woodward combining as Aslan, the real Lion King. Woodward also wandered on as the rather amiable Professor, owner of the house to which the Pevensie children had been evacuated, as well as a fleeting visit, Ho Ho Ho, as Santa.

Then there was Joan Wall, battleaxing her way through as the ever so strict housekeeper, Mrs McReady. But youth theatre is about youth, the clue being in the name, and they carried the fantasy tale along on opening night without a hesitation or prompt in sight.

Joseph Kilker was a serious Peter, the eldest of the four evacuees, while Courtney Smith-Reid was a more demure Susan, quiet and confident, and you suspect the real leader of the quartet.

Phoebe O’Reilly shone as Lucy, the youngest and most adventurous, endlessly excitable and wearing her emotions on her sleeve. Then there was Edmund, the other son of Adam in the group, played by Iyla-Rose Hussain, who an observant audience might notice is actually a girl, and a pretty one at that - boys perhaps being less enamoured by the appeal of youth theatre than football or whatever.

Ilya gives us a bolshie, argumentative young lad who is a bit of a pain, accurate enough to suspect she might have a brother perhaps.

We have the same gender flexibility with the first animal we meet as Lucy wanders through the wardrobe to Narnia with Molly Scott as the Faun Mr Tumnus, who seems to want to protect her but breaks down when he reveals his kindness was tempered by his fear of the White Witch which has made him into her unwilling spy.


Sammy Lees as the vicious captain of the Queen's wolf guard, Maugrim

Then there was Mr Beaver, or perhaps McBeaver in this case with the lilting accent of Maryam Kaleemullah, and you can see a pattern developing here. She, along with Bebe Spackman’s Mrs Beaver, are the couple who rescue the Pevensie children from the initial dangers of the Queen, the White Witch.

And Maisie-Leigh Jones can be a terrifying witch. One suspects this is a witch without much of a sense of humour, one with a liking for blood and torture and with fingernails long enough to stab kittens and puppies.

When she is calm she is just plain old nasty but rile her and she has a voice that could break an anvil and be heard deep in space. You could feel the audience jolt as her first explosion and shout rocked the walls and blasted home.

And the Queen has her enforcers, her guard led by Maugrim played by Sammy Lees, in a very different role than his superb appearance as the affable, fun Zach in the recent Goodnight, Mr Tom.

Here he grunts a lot as the vicious, snarling captain of the wolf pack and, full of his trademark enthusiasm, lopes around like a roadrunner on speed. Convincingly unpleasant.

The rest of his pack of black clad nasties are Chloe Lees and Charlotte Martin, loping around menacingly and then there is Matilda Walker – with a fine beard – as the obsequious dwarf, there to do the Queen’s bidding.


Aslan with the full head mask creation

Against them are Aslan’s stormtroopers, the Leopards, Imogen Girling, Isabel Manders and Connor O’Malley, distinguished from the wolves by a bright sash and splendid make up and an ability to stand up straight instead of crouching like deformed creatures from the dark side.

Make up was notable for the leopards and the forboding look of wolves as well as for the faun and beavers with their extra costumes. The make up of the Queen was subtle, pale, almost translucent, her eyes left piercing and her finger nails longer than her fingers.

Emily Beaton, Eloise Lee-Jones, Thuy Truong along with hair and make-up students from UCB College were responsible for the make up, and a mention too for the full head lion mask, with Ceri Sian responsible for special effect props.

Beaton, Chloe Delpino and Sammy Lees designed the deceptively simple flexible set with the wardrobe the central feature.

The studio is a bit of a railway carriage shape which can have many layouts, in the round, a thrust stage, small stage at one end, or, as in this case, a long full length stage and if there was a criticism it was that dialogue started to be lost at one end if the action was at the other, so a bit more volume would help.

Not that it detracted from a creditable performance of a classic tale in a family show which runs to 15-10-22.

Roger Clarke


Hall Green Little Theatre

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