A New Witch in Town!

“And Lucy? She stayed just the same”


Chris Jared as Aslan and puppeteers (Photo: Brinkhoff-Mogenburg)

They say the devil has the best tunes, but in this production it’s the baddies that have the best special effects.  

This production of CS Lewis’s beloved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has some of the best stagecraft ever seen in the West End.  

The youngster I took to this production in Drury Lane’s Gillian Lynne Theatre mouthed a silent “wow” at the climactic spectacle of the first half as the White Witch (Samantha Womack) summons her shadowy army from 40ft above the ground, her tendrils engulfing a terrified Edmund (Shaka Kalokoh) below.  

Lewis’s story, adapted successfully for TV and the big screen previously, follows the four Pevensie children as they are evacuated to the countryside to escape the Blitz.  

In the rackety, book-filled house of Professor Kirk (Johnson Willis), Lucy (Deainey Hayes) lthe youngest discovers the titular wardrobe, a portal to Narnia, a world where winter has reigned 100 years.  

Ammar Duffus as Peter, Emmanuel Ogunjimini as Maugrim and Chris Jared as Aslan (Photo: Brinkhoff-Mogenburg)

Michael Fentiman’s sure-footed direction plays up the nostalgia of the period. The audience take their seats to a pianist centre-stage in the famous “Tommy” helmet worn by British soldiers in World War Two, tinkling through “Knees Up Mother Brown” and “Colonel Bogey”.  

The show starts with a rendition of “We’ll Meet Again”, setting a poignant but optimistic note before the Pevensies are whisked to rural Aberdeenshire by train. Expertly staged with cast, lighting and model locomotive and carriages, to the shriek of whistles and huffing of steam, the experience is authentically disorientating, as it must be for child refugees. And the show only gets better from there.  

Battles are fought, spells are cast, wolves are slain – There’s a bad trip scene that is so vivid it should see Turkish Delight made a class-A drug.  

It’s all thrillingly done but even the smaller moments are affecting. At one point Spring springs surprisingly from underneath a soldier’s hat, theatrical in the best way.  

Jez Unwin as Mr Tumnus and Delainey Hayles as Lucy (Photo: Brinkhoff-Mogenburg)

The principal characters are all strong, with great turns from Kalokoh and Robyn Sinclair as Susan plus Ammar Duffus and Delainey Hayles as siblings Peter and Lucy The actors playing the Pevensies make the family dynamic vivid and emotive, no small feat amidst the spectacular staging and special effects.  

Womack, best known for her work with Eastenders, glowers and towers as the White Witch, and together with the effects team delivers the most spine-tingling bits of the show.  

In a production full of great visuals, the lion itself is beautiful. When Aslan appears in the second half you quickly forget this huge creature is portrayed by a team of puppeteers and an actor (Chris Jared),  

The costume designer (Tom Paris) and cast also deserve credit for making the woodland folk charming without being twee. This isn’t a given with CS Lewis’s material. Other versions of LWW can make an audience root for another few centuries of winter to thin the sylvan menagerie still further.  

Sam Womack as the White Witch and Chris Jared as Aslan (Photo: Brinkhoff-Mogenburg)

Key to this success was Jez Unwin’s Mr Tumnus the faun, the first magical creature encountered by Lucy Pevensie on her initial trip to Narnia.  

In a great scene Tumnus admits he intended to betray the human to the White Witch and Lucy, crucially, forgives him. It’s a touching moment and an optimistic one, with Lewis’s suggestion that Britain, were it ever conquered by a dark force and forced into moral contortions about collaboration, traitors and what to do with them, would do the right thing. It’s subtly done, with just the suggestion of the war in Narnia in the Wehrmacht-esque helmets worn by the witch’s minions.  

The large cast of dancers and multi-instrumentalists make the woodland creatures a charming mix of Brighton crusty and Dad’s Army, rustic but reassuring, while the army of darkness is monstrous but sometimes sympathetic.  

The live cellos, oboes, accordion, drums and more accompany the scenes effectively and give impact to the songs  

The show ends as it started, with singing around a piano, but this time with a full cast belting out one of the biggest numbers. Fun and magic from start to finish!  

The Children in the Lion. the witch and the Wardrobe (Photo: Brinkhoff-Mogenburg)

Production Notes

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

From the novel  by CS Lewis

Directed by Michael Fentiman

Original Direction: Sally Cookson




Chris Jared

Samantha Womack

Delainey Hayles

Emmanuel Ogunjinmi

Jez Unwin

Shaka Kalokoh

Robyn Sinclair

Johnson Willis




Julian Hoult

Matthew James Hinchliffe

Micha Richardson

Oliver Grant

Rachel Dawson

Scott Brooks

Sean Lopeman

Shaun Mccourt

Charlotte-Kate Warren

Ashlee Irish

Ciaran Rodger

Jasmin Colangelo

Myla Carmen

Christina Tedders


Director: Michael Fentiman/Sally Cookson

Designer: Tom Paris

Choreographer: Chanelle ‘Tali’ Fergus

Composer: Benji Bower

Puppetry Direction: Toby Olié

Illusion and Magic: Chris Fisher

Aerial Direction: Gwen Hales

Puppetry Design: Max Humphries

Lighting Designer: Jack Knowles

Sound Designer: Gareth Tucker for Autograph

Video and Projection: Douglas O’Connell

Musical Director: Toby Higgins

Fight Director: Jonathan Holby


Running Time: Two hours 30 minutes with an interval

Booking until 8th January 2023 



Gillian Lynne Theatre

166 Drury Lane


London WC2B 5PW

Box Officehttps://www.lionwitchonstage.com/tickets/

Website: https://www.lionwitchonstage.com

Tube: Holborn or Covent Garden

Reviewed by Ben Clover

at the Gillian Lynne Theatre on 28th July 2022

Sam Womack as the White Witch (Photo: Brinkhoff-Mogenburg)