The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe set to cast its spell in Southampton
Is it for the children? It is for the adults? It’s probably both, says Samantha Womack who plays The White Witch as The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe tours to Southampton’s Mayflower (November 23-27).
“It is a wonderful story full of so many nuances. I have seen C S Lewis shows before but I feel that this production is really trying hard to get all the beauty of the piece and the darkness of the piece but also the elegance of the piece.
“We've only got two hours or so on the stage and obviously you can't get all the nuances of the book but I do think it's incredibly well done and you have got this wonderful set-up, the four children that have been displaced and isolated. That's done very cleverly and it's done in a very short time.
“The historical references are there in the design. A lot of the female dancers are wearing the work gear that the women in the army were wearing at that time and there are references to the war and historical events but we were very anxious that it should become a story about displacement that we could all relate to and not just because of the war.”
Samantha believes there is added poignancy because of the pandemic: “There is a lot that you can relate to in the story as we come out of the pandemic, about losing the things that we hold dear, the things that validate us and just having to reassess who we are and what we are doing. And there is also a beautiful speech towards the end that Susan makes about the devastation that evil takes on the natural world and how lovely it is once love comes back into the world and trees start to spring back to life. There is so much that you can take from the story.”
In preparation Samantha didn’t read so much The Lion, The Witch as C S Lewis’s other books: “I didn't want to be held by the imagery and then get stuck with it in terms of the storytelling but what I did get from just going back into his books is a reminder of the complexities of the story and again, as I say, the elegance of his storytelling.”
And that applies too to the witch: “There is complexity there. People think witches are quite simplistic in a kind of panto way but she represents everything that is trying to survive in the world. She so much wants eternal life and eternal power and for her it is all about trying to survive at the expense of everything else. Essentially she is terrified of losing eternal power and eternal life. She's like all tyrants in that she is coming at it from a point of fear. She is terrified. She is so unhinged, and she is also a seducer. The more you look into it, the more you see. Every time I see the show on stage, something else strikes me.”
Samantha became attached to the project about half-way through: “I was involved with another production, The Addams Family, and we were trying desperately to get that back on tour and up and running but that hasn't been possible and it was cancelled a few times. Somewhere towards the end of the second lockdown I went to see a piece of theatre with a friend of mine, and the people that were doing that were involved with this show and they heard that I had become available and so that's how it happened.”
Inevitably it is Samantha's first time on the stage now for a long time: “It has been a long time away from the stage but also from actor me. I have always been quite a hard worker because I have needed to. I have always been a jobbing actor. I have never really had the luxury of saying no to things. I have been operating from a place where if I don't take an opportunity, I might not get it again. My narrative has always been ‘Take the work, take the work, take the work!’ And I was terrified at first when it all stopped and then I became very comfortable being quiet and being different and just being me. And now it is quite hard coming back. It is hard when you have found yourself to become someone else again!”