All set for a roaring success

Imagine masterminding a production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe involving 250 youngsters? This was the challenge facing Peter Beck and Laura Cordiner, of Norwich Young People's Theatre.

Imagine masterminding a production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe involving 250 youngsters? This was the challenge facing Peter Beck and Laura Cordiner, of Norwich Young People's Theatre. Emma Outten spoke to Laura in advance of the opening night on Wednesday.

The costumiers behind the Norwich Young People's Theatre production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had their work cut out for them - if not the cloth…

From Wednesday over 250 young people are coming together to perform the magical tale from C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia at the University of East Anglia Drama Studio.

So whilst children as young as five, right through to 16, have been busy preparing - learning songs and dances - since the beginning of the year, many of their parents have been just as busy creating wonderful costumes for the production.


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To say that Norwich Young People's Theatre's production is large-scale would be an understatement. The production has been a big undertaking for director Peter Beck, 30, and 25-year-old tutor Laura Cordiner, who established the company last June to improve the range and quality of theatre-arts provision available to young people.

Even the pre-publicity photo-call was a big undertaking. Laura successfully managed to gather together almost half the youngsters in one place at one time but only after having to spend all day on the phone contacting them all. She admitted to needing a large glass of wine at the end of it all!

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Norwich Young People's Theatre, part of a wider organisation called Norwich Theatre Projects, a theatre-in-education organisation based in the east of England, is a relatively new project. “It's a brand new company,” said Laura, but she added: “We have just been overwhelmed by the numbers.”

Thankfully, parents of the juniors rose to the challenge of making the costumes. Laura and Peter set about making the costumes for the smaller senior contingency, but once again parents provided invaluable help.

Then there was the set to think about. All in all, thanks to volunteers and staff, the presentation will be the result of a real team effort.

Another challenge was finding a venue to fit everyone in. The upshot of their search is that every available space a the UEA Drama Studio will be taken up with students getting into costumes, having their make up put on and going over their lines and songs.

“It's so functional and so practical for the juniors,” said Laura. “All the corridors are light and all the corridors are wide.”

It is a very timely annual production, as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is also undergoing a bit of a renaissance with a film of the enchanting story in post-production for release on December 9, 2005.

As the story goes, a White Witch has used her dark powers to keep Narnia in winter for 100 years, but it is foretold that four humans will be able to help Asian the Lion break the spell.

When the children, Lucy, Susan, Edmund and Peter, discover the magic of Narnia by entering the enchanted world through the wardrobe, the stage is set for a classic battle of epic proportions.

The film is being made by American movie giant Disney and stars Tilda Swinton as the White Witch, Brian Cox as Asian the Lion and Rupert Everett as The Fox.

Laura admits that being one of the masterminds of such a large-scale annual production has been “one of the scariest things to do” and jokes that her and Peter may collapse at the end of the six-night run.

But the satisfaction of getting 250 children in the right place at the right time “makes it all worth while.”

And, once, they've recovered, than plan to stage an even bigger and even better next year!

* The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, presented by Norwich Young People's Theatre, University of East Anglia Drama Studio, Wednesdat to Sunday April 17. Tickets for the show are £8.50 full price and £6.50 concessions and are available from Norwich Puppet Theatre Box Office on 01603 629921.

If you would like to join Norwich Young People's Theatre or find out more information, telephone 01603 767818 or visit the website at

www.norwichyoungpeoplestheatre.co.uk

C. S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia:

As a child, born in Belfast, Ireland in 1898, Clive Staples Lewis was fascinated by the fairy tales, myths and ancient legends recounted to him by his Irish nurse.

The image of a faun carrying parcels and an umbrella in a snowy wood came to him when he was sixteen.

Many years later an evil queen and a magnificent lion joined the faun, and their story became The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe. The book tells the story of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, who step through a magic wardrobe into Narnia, once the peaceful land of Talking Beasts, Dwarfs, Giants and Fauns, but now frozen into winter by the evil White Witch.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, published in 1950, is the second and best-known novel in the seven-part Narnia series, which also includes The Magician's Nephew, The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair and The Last Battle.

The Chronicles of Narnia series has established itself as a worldwide brand and is currently published by HarperCollins.

The final title, The Last Battle, was awarded the UK's prestigious Carnegie Award.

Lewis, who was also distinguished as a professor at Oxford and Cambridge, died on November 22, 1963.

He died at 5.30pm at The Kilns, one week before his 65th birthday, the same day on which President Kennedy was assassinated and Aldous Huxley died.

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