It’s on now: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

December 11, 2010

The first run of any play always gives the producer the chance to see how it actually works in public performance. On Thursday, Whirlwind Theatre staged the first night of “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” at the Storeys in Lancaster. On that day, we were still waiting for some of the props we needed. They’d been held up by the very bad weather of the past weeks. We’d only had limited use of the staging area on Tuesday and Wednesday and had to work around school times. An several children had never actually acted publicly before. Whirlwindtakes children from 6 years, and I know there were 6 and 7 year olds in the production.

But you wouldn’t have known all that,watching them. I thought some might be nervous, but as I watchd them, my heart was filled with such pride. We’d worked with them for over 18 months on this one, and now, here they were, coming on stage and loving it. In my last report, I’d said how we only rehearsed once a week, rather than the 3 week intensive rehearsals of previous shows.

Yesterday’s showing was even better. If you’re in Lancaster, you can still watch the performance this afternoon at 2 and this evening at 6.30. But you need to visit the Whirlwind theatre website
to book tickets. You’ll see an amazing array of masks, including that of Aslan, the beavers, grumpskins and lots of others.

It’s a great show, but for those who have been doing this every Saturday since the middle of last year, its just special. And if you’ve been working with Whirlwind for that many years, well, what can I say? I’ve watched children grow to be great actors and great people. We even have our own in-house jokes now.

The witch (who thinks she’s queen of Narnia) is now fondly known as the qwitch. I can’t even remember who coined the name, we all just call her qwitch now. She’s an excellent actor by the way. She learned her lines before anyone else, and now delivers them with a certainty that belies her 12 years. I always joke with Qwitch that I get to kill her. She just seems to enjoy the torture she gives me, I need to remind her that it’s only temporary.

At the end of October, I interviewed the qwitch and Susan on my gospel hour. I was amazed at how easy the interview was. In all the time we’d been acting together, we’d actually grown to be really good friends. It was a massive laugh, such great fun. It emerged in that interview that Susan had been in the theatre for as long as I have. She proudly announced that she was the longest serving child member of the theatre. And it shows in her understanding of how we work.

It’s surprising to learn that Whirlwind has been going on for so long. I think the first time I acted was “toad of toadhall” in 2004. This year, I really took time to observe how the older children had really matured into their roles. Organisation was very different. We had only 3 adult actors and for most of the time, apart from Myette who produced the show, no other helpers. The older children just grew into the role of organising the younger ones. And they did it well. When I ran some of the games, I watched the older child actors organising the younger ones into circles, even running some of the games themselves.

For me, it’s much more than the play, it’s about character building. If you see the play, you’ll see great acting, but if you look deeper, see its making, you’ll se growth, learning and fun. Do come and watch.