Here are Ron's AD notes on THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, now running in Coquitlam at The Evergreen Cultural Centre until December 22.
The Chronicles of Narnia captivate us not simply because they create a world we want to live in, but – as with all great literature – because they invite us to create that world ourselves, co-creators with the author. The world C.S. Lewis describes is vivid enough – a lamp post in a snowy clearing, fauns and dryads and dwarves and and icy queen, a secretive supper in a cosy beaver lodge – but it depends on you, the reader, to bring it to life. Lewis is a master of suggesting a world both exotic and familiar, providing just enough specific details to make us want to fill in the rest. With our imaginations.
When Pacific Theatre first began to devise our staging of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, we knew we didn't want to reduce the mighty, untamed Aslan to an actor in a lion suit. We knew we couldn't replicate the mob of horrible creatures at the Stone Table, or build onstage any sort of realistic forest or ice castle, or fill the stage with snow that would fall and freeze and thaw.
We weren't making a movie: we were creating theatre. We couldn't hand you depictions of all the products of the author's mind: it simply can't be done on a stage. Even if we had the budget for a massive cast and a theatre full of special effects, we knew it wouldn't be worth the effort.
Because the best we could build for you wouldn't measure up to the Narnia you can create in your mind. The fact is, that's how fantasy works: the story gets told, but you do the fantasizing. It's only magic because you bring the magic: Narnia gets a hold on your heart because you help build it, bringing all your senses to bear as you build the images, imagine the smells and textures, as you work with the creator to make a world.
And that's exactly how live theatre works: we depend on you to create a world with us. Without our audience, we're just a bunch of ordinary people putting on somebody else's clothes and talking weird. If you don't bring imagination to the theatre, if you don't show up willing to suspend your disbelief and pretend right along with us, you won't get your money's worth.
So we bring you the simplest possible Narnia: two grown children in an empty room where, once upon a time, years before, magic happened. If only it could happen again....