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THEATRE REVIEW: The show went on... and, as always, it humbled me

RECOVERY ACT: Jonathan Tibbs as Mr Beaver.
RECOVERY ACT: Jonathan Tibbs as Mr Beaver.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by SADOS, at the South Holland Centre, Spalding

Directors, producers, actors and everyone involved in these amateur productions put months of hard work into them.

So imagine how scary and potentially heartbreaking it must be when one of your main characters falls ill.

This is the fate that befell SADOS (Spalding Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society) on Thursday evening, when Jonathan Tibbs, who played Mr Beaver, was quite poorly during the interval.

Those of us in the audience who heard the news were so worried for all involved, but we need not have been. Jonathan came out and put in a great performance during the second half and those who didn’t know he had been ill would still be none the wiser. As they say, the show must go on.

But Jonathan’s heroics epitomise the whole ethos of a group such as SADOS. Ordinary people with ordinary jobs and ordinary lives giving up hours and hours of their time to put on something special like this for the people of South Holland.

Susan (Abbie Schweikhardt) & Lucy (Elizabeth Morris Sampson)
Susan (Abbie Schweikhardt) & Lucy (Elizabeth Morris Sampson)

I read the CS Lewis novel to my boy a few years ago and, to be honest, this classic tale is not one of my favourites.

The portrayal of people from our world stepping into an unknown world and two of those characters from our world morphing into those in Narnia is too much like the Wizard of Oz for me – and SADOS had already performed that brilliantly in May of this year.

But wheareas the story of Oz is a beautiful fairytale, this children’s story is slightly deeper. As explained by director Charles Long in the programme notes, the lion Aslan’s death and rebirth is akin to that of Christ and the evil White Witch’s secret police are wearing grey military uniforms to signify the oppression created by Germany’s SS in the 1940s – when the book was set.

But it’s a children’s story too and, although not my favourite, I did enjoy this performance – the acting was spot-on and the fact the show went by so quickly for me showed how good it was.

Andrew dedicated this performance to his father David, who passed away recently. He would have been proud of his son.

To summarise briefly, four siblings are sent to a country house to stay with an eccentric professor and his strict housekeeper Mrs Macready in order to escape the World War II bombings. While there, they discover a portal in a warbrobe leading to the magical world of Narnia, where they help good (Aslan and the pleasant folk of Narnia) battle evil (The White Witch) and come out victorious.

When they return to the house after their epic adventure, they realise there is an uncanny similarity between the Professor and Aslan and Mrs Macready and the Witch!

SADOS put all this on stage in a fun, moving and meaningul way. Not content with directing, Charles Long also played the oldest of the Pervensie siblings... and he did it with aplomb, playing the older brother in the slightly angry, pompous way that Julian comes across in Enid Blyon’s Famous Five novels.

Abbie Schweikhardt, who was so wonderful as Dorothy in Oz six months ago, shone too as Susan Pervensie, her wide eyed innocence perfectly capturing the character.

And, as always, Louis Rhodes was maginificent, this time as grotty younger brother Edmund Pervensie.

I really think this lad is a rising star. He was excellent in Act II’s Made in Dagenham last year and stole the show for me again here.

I’ve no idea what he’s like in real life, but his portrayal of a naughty younger brother was superb, as was his transformation to a repentant, eventually brave fighter.

Elizabeth Morris Sampson put in a lovely performance as Lucy Pervensie and carried out the early part of discovering Narnia superbly, when all eyes were on her.

Mr Tumnus was a role that needed warmth and humour to shine from it, and Charlie Russell had that in abundance.

The aforementioned Jonathan Tibbs and Donna Carter played Mr and Mrs Beaver with such warmth too and really made you feel for them and long for a return to their pleasant, sunny world of old.

Rob Nicholls seemed to relish the role of Maugrim, head of the Witch’s Secret Police and was really quite terrifying. .. especially his wolf’s howl!

Paul Coleman is always value for money and although his role as Father Christmas was more of a cameo one, he certainly dominated the stage when on it.

And 11-year-old Joe Smith stepped up from his role as the coroner in Oz to play The Dwarf here and gave us plenty of laughs along the way. Well done.

But special mention must go to Andrew Rudd and Holly Whittaker as they each played two characters and had a lot of stage time.

I’ve been lucky enough to see all of Andrew’s previous performances and once again he was excellent. To play a dithering professor and a brave, strong lion in the same performance cannot be easy. One minute the eccentric English gent, the next the heroic Aslan, and then back again.

Andrew dedicated this performance to his father David, who passed away recently. He would have been proud of his son.

Hollie didn’t have to change characters quite as much, as both Mrs Macready and The White Witch are really rather scary... but she still made them so different to one another.

She looked so different too, which is a real credit to Ailish Chester and Patsy Figg in the make-up department.

Stage manager Jake Merrill and his deputy Andy Nicholson also deserve praise for the seamless transitions from country house to Narnia and back again.

As always, I left a local production in awe of the ordinary people putting on something extraordinary for the people of Spalding and the surrounding area.

It’s Priscilla, Queen of the Desert next, in May 2018... and I can’t wait.

Jeremy Ransome


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