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THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW Festival Theatre/Shaw Festival
May 25, 2018, 00:45
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Shaw Festival
Through October 13
THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW Festival Theatre/Shaw Festival

C.S. Lewis’ chronicles of Narnia have become staples of kids’ literature, the stories of that magic world just behind the wardrobe.
Clearly, the Shaw Festival sees the prequel “The Magician’s Nephew” in Michael O’Brien’s stage adaptation, as the kid’s show for this summer season.
Except, except.
Watching the crowd leave the Festival Theatre after a preview performance raises some question.
Clearly the parents and grandparents loved the show.
The kids?
Not clear, although they didn’t have that excited look you see when kids exit a play which has engaged them, caught their attention in some way.
Now, maybe some of them haven’t explored Narnia or followed the aphorisms of Aslan.
Director Tim Carroll has certainly used Douglas Paraschuk’s staging and Cameron Davis’ projections to deliver to deliver a production suited for the most inattention-ridden kid.
It’s too early in time for the cast members to be distractedly and constantly looking at their social media pages, leaving kids to exploration.
The story is set in a country house in, perhaps, Victorian England.
It’s a very complicated story, perhaps too complicated for many kids in the audience.
While it’s really the book which sets up the entire Narnia saga, it was the second book published, perhaps Lewis attempting to explain many of the elements of the entire saga.
Here, we learn about starting new worlds, of the different colored rings which send young people to new worlds their travels and rings begin or rings which send them back to the house in London.
That’s where Polly (Vanessa Sears) and Digory (Travis Seetoo) begin their explorations of good and evil and Narnia, watching Aslan the lion (Kyle Blair) create worlds.
What it does do for Narnia fans is tell the story of the London street light and the tree which eventually becomes the wardrobe.
Clearly, many in the audience had read Lewis’ books and knew the characters and the wardrobe and the idiot Uncle Andrew (Steven Sutcliffe), who is experimenting with magic and not well.
“Magician” is one of those plays where all you can do is sit back and let the story wash over you, in a sense filling the mental wardrobe to understand the story.
Director Tim Carroll has gone really high-tech with the staging, using Cameron Davis’ projections to help tell the story and move the production along.
They are effective and clearly the future of the stage, images on screens rather than elaborate sets, like the Kavinoky Theatre’s set for “Mamma Mia!” with the giant computer screen on the back of the stage.
No matter how elaborate a standard set is or a computer projection series, you still have to tell a story and the problem here is telling a very complicated story and setting up the world of Narnia, perhaps beyond some of the very young people in the audience.
It would surely help if the adults taking the kids set up the world of Victorian England in that very last click of the queen-empress’s reign.
Carroll has some strong performances, Sears and Seetoo, Sutcliffe in another rug-chewing performance, Deborah Hay’s White Witch and a strong ensemble including some of the Shaw’s best performers in secondary roles.
“The Magician’s Nephew” is a look ahead to the future of theater and a look back to some of the English language’s greatest source material in religion, although Lewis’ Christian base isn’t quite as clear here.
“Magician” is probably a story for those who have mentally internalized Narnia and its story, the generations who have read the story and marveled at the lands beyond the wardrobe and can follow the story, as delivered by a strong cast of people and pixels.


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