Review by Danny Gaisin, assisted by Henry & Jaron – also Wikipedia®
Nobody told me that reading the Narnia Chronicles, especially The Lion, Witch & Wardrobe is a necessity if one is to follow and understand C.S. Lewis’ THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW. Fortunately, I was able to enlist two American visitors; Henry, aged 12 & Jaron who is 17 to decode and explain what SHAW Festival’s head honcho Tim Carrroll seems able to decipher. Seems that the seven Narnia Chronicles are NOT about an AMAZONtm warehouse shipping operation, even though boxes and the cuttings thereof are the major on-stage operations. Michael O’Brien’s adaptation of ‘Nephew’ is being premiered by the Festival. Photo by Emily Cooper
According to my young cohorts, Nephew is a prequel to L W & W. Two kids, Digory & Polly are sharing the same dream. No explanation for the cartons or why a whole pile of cast members are supposed to be invisible. I was supposed to grasp that Jadis is either a bad Queen or good witch, or vice-versa. Hickory Digory is Travis Seetoo, Polly is Vanessa Sears and I’m not sure if she is his girlfriend or just a buddy. In either case, both are incredibly focused and talented actors with instinctive discipline and faultless dialogue. Her highness Deborah Hay is their nemesis and she’s got the best and most intricate outfits. A military-costumed sergeant controls Hay and a bunch of cardboard animals with a lion’s mask – also of cardboard. BTW, the trees and Uncle’s laboratory, and bells & whistles are also….wait for it – cardboard. Aslan, the lion/Sgt is Kyle Blair who takes his every on-stage moment seriously and with full concentration. As he must be the boss of everything, I kept hoping he also was in charge of the weather because we all know what happens to cardboard when it rains!
Digory’s uncle is either a magician or a wannabee. He’s also self-centred, selfish and overacts. Steven Sutcliffe is an established Shaw repertory veteran and this is the first time we’ve ever seen him give a performance that was even close to being amateurish. So, blame it on Tim Carroll. The flying horse is Matt Nethersole and Michael Therriault is the cabbie who harnesses him for tourist rides around Niagara-on-the Lake…I think.
The set is mostly – cardboard boxes and the aforementioned (see ‘Baskervilles’) railed curtains that host projections, scenery, sky, and atmosphere. We’re still old-fashioned enough to be not impressed. Give me painted flats anytime. Still, I stayed totally awake during Act II and might even consider borrowing one or more of Lewis’ Chronicles, unless doing so is a slippery slope leading to Hogwarts!
My associates in observing the overacting and hammy on-stage moments gave it a 4.7 rating (Jaron) while Henry thought it was a definite 7.6 out of ten.
The play is at the Festival Theatre until Oct. 13th. and fortunately for the young’uns, running time is just over two hours.