Having driven to Leeds on a wet Tuesday evening, my son and I had little idea of what to expect from ‘The Narnia Experience’. According to the buzz around the event, the piece of community theatre featured over a hundred performers as well as a huge number of behind-the-scenes workers, all working shifts to entertain schoolchildren as well as the general public over its two-week run.
We became immersed in the fantasy from the moment we stepped through the door, as a station guard escorted us to a wartime train station, where 1940s tea dress-wearing ladies served us refreshments whilst young evacuee children raced around the tables. Just like the four young children in the Narnia adventures, we were young evacuees about to board a train to the country. With a final cheery wave from the guard and a warning not to forget our suitcases, we clutched our evacuee luggage labels and headed for our train.
Arriving at the suitably atmospheric Left Bank Leeds (a former church now restored as an arts venue), we met ‘Edmund’ and ‘Lucy’ and – just as I’d always wanted to do as a child – pushed our way through a wardrobe of fur coats to see the wonders of Narnia revealed before us. Our group of thirty visitors was split in two, with one group following ‘Lucy’, meeting Mr Tumnus and Father Christmas amongst others, whilst with ‘Edmund’, our group took the slightly more perilous route, encountering The White Witch, visiting her palace and coming face to face with menacing wolves.
Stepping past snow-laden trees, we were greeted by The White Witch, resplendent in her fur-lined sleigh. The chilliness of Left Bank Leeds added to the sense of foreboding which grew as we visited the scenes from The Chronicles of Narnia series. A little light relief to the dramatic tension was provided by Mr and Mrs Beaver (my son loved their forest hideaway). My own highlight was the dramatic scene in which we finally met Aslan, whose forbidding voice and dominating presence was brilliantly captured thanks to the skill of the puppeteers.
I was interested to see the large number of adults attending the event, as well as children. Fifty years after his death, this is a convincing testament to the enduring popularity of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series. Let’s hope ‘The Narnia Experience’ will continue its success in sharing this children’s classic with a new generation of readers.
For more information, please click here to visit The Narnia Experience.