We asked director Craig Griffen for his thoughts on The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. A person who embraces creativity, innovation and new ideas, Craig is juggling roles of director, movement choreographer, set and costume designer, co-lighting designer, music supervisor and puppet designer and builder.
Koorliny: What attracted you to directing The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe?
Craig: When Koorliny Arts Centre offered me the opportunity to direct a production of this well-known story, I saw an opportunity to explore fantasy. I felt the story was a perfect chance to find new visual storytelling opportunities and to combine theatrical influences from all over the world and from all different theatrical styles. It is a rare story that offers complete freedom of imagination and lets us fire up the audience’s imagination too.
Koorliny: Why do you think this story reaches into so many hearts and imaginations?
Craig: I believe the story of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe speaks to our childhood, and grown-up, desire to have control in our lives. When the four Pevensie children, and in particular Lucy, are faced with an insurmountable and uncontrollable trauma – the horrors of a World War approaching their country, bombs being dropped on their city, families being ripped apart, fathers taken to war never to be seen again and then being evacuated to strange places to be cared for by strange people- the children search for and gain control by surrounding themselves with a fantasy world of magic, wonder and beauty, and imagine themselves to be agents of change. They create a world where four teenaged children are destined to become kings and queens. Where the ultimate evils can be overcome by the ‘good’ and where children are the ones in control. The world of Narnia is in no way a realistic world, but it is a world that can bring comfort and control to these children in a time of great trauma.
When you combine the sense of control with the childhood wish fulfillment of escape, fantasy and magic, you have a story that connects with us, surprises us and stays with us for reasons we may not even be able to pinpoint.
Koorliny: What can audiences expect from the experience?
Craig: We are presenting a wholly unique take on the world of Narnia. This production tells the classic story with brand new visuals in a uniquely theatrical format. The creatures of Narnia have been brought to life by large puppets, operated on stage by the actors themselves, enhancing the fantastical and adding some visual flair and imagination to the production. You will see the story you know and love, presented in a way you have never seen before.
Koorliny: What are some of the challenges of this production?
Craig: Our biggest challenges with this production have been the scope and scale of the story and, of course, the puppets. The story takes places in some 20+ locations across the real world and the fantastical Narnia. We spent many months developing a visual narrative that would bring to life the various part of Narnia and show the transformation from frozen tundra when the world is under the White Witch’s power, into a lush, blooming forest and though the seasons without weighing down the visual storytelling.
The design and construction of the various puppets has been a development process over the better part of a year. Each character had to be designed and built to emphasise the precise movements and moments required of them. Then once they are complete a whole new challenge began, where our cast of actors had to learn to operate the puppets, then to adapt them and perform along side them. It has been a wonderfully exciting challenge that the cast and creatives have risen to.