The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is an epic story about good overcoming evil. It is a story that allows us to open up our imaginations and dream of possibilities beyond our existence. Yet at the heart of this piece are four children who are growing up—transforming from youth with simple, egocentric concerns, into young adults who gain confidence, understand responsibility, and learn about forgiveness and caring for others during their time in Narnia.
It is significant for me to be directing this timeless story at Chemainus Theatre during their 25th Anniversary season. It was here, 14 years ago, I received my first professional contract and played the roles of Lucy and the White Witch in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It was at Chemainus that I had the opportunity to grow, mature, and hone my own skills as an artist. In a sense, this theatre is a place where I “grew up” as an artist.
I’m really interested and inspired by the idea of play. As a little girl, my favorite memories were of playing games such as “house,” “supermarket,” “radio station,” and various others that I devised with my brother, cousins, and friends. We would use whatever we had on hand to create these worlds—whether it was my Mom’s clothing, my grandmother’s jewelry and hats, or my parent’s old records (yes, we even had a sound design.) In this day and age, as I see students become less engaged in play and more engaged with their phones, the importance of play in our lives becomes increasingly evident to me.
With this production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I really wanted to get back to the simple idea of play—asking the actors and the audience to engage their imaginations, as opposed to their iphones. I wanted this production to mirror children really playing out the story with whatever is readily available to them—whether it be an old umbrella, a scrap of material, or even their own bodies. How can a long piece of cloth become a cape, a river, and a tent? Could we use our bodies to become animal statues, trees, and even the wind? How can we use a drumbeat to tell the story of a great battle? To me, the immense power of childhood imagination, that ability to turn the most ordinary of things into something completely different is what I love about theatre.
And so the cycle of learning and growing continues. Whether you are young or old, I hope you enjoy our imaginative journey through childhood via Narnia.
By Melissa Young