This holiday season sees the return of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to the Pacific Theatre stage.
Adapted from the C.S. Lewis novel by Pacific Theatre’s artistic director Ron Reed, it is the story of Peter and Lucy who return to the wardrobe as adults to reminisce and relive their journey to Narnia.
Something of a signature piece for Pacific Theatre, having been performed a number of times through the years, this two-hander is being newly re-imagined by director Sarah Rodgers, and actors Rebecca DeBoer and John Voth.
While the story may centre on the two Pevensie children as adults, the show also sees the appearance of many of the enchanted characters in Lewis’ story, including The White Witch, Mr & Mrs Beaver, and even Aslan. They are all played by the two actors.
While Sheila White’s costumes play a big part in helping to differentiate between each character, the two performers must also call upon their training as actors.
“For me, variating my physical and vocal qualities are what I rely on most in this show,” says Deboer. “I don’t think I’ve ever used my full vocal range like this before.”
Similarly for Voth, it is about discovering the voice first, followed by the physicality of each character he portrays.
“Finding where the voice sits helps to understand how a character moves,” he says. “Of course our wonderful director Sarah helps to point out how we can create more differences between them. Mr and Mrs Beaver are the closest in how they move, so I’ve been trying to find subtle differences in their stance and movements.”
Besides the humans in the story, DeBoer and Voth are also required to portray the magical creatures who inhabit Narnia. While one would think it is the mythical beings who would provide the greatest challenge to an actor, for DeBoer it is her portrayal of a Lucy as a child which she has found the most demanding.
“I’d say the most challenging character for me to find has been young Lucy, the central protagonist,” she says. “Figuring out how to portray a child without stumbling into clichés or stereotypes.”
But while playing a child may be her biggest challenge, DeBoer also acknowledges that with Lewis’ ability to create such recognizable and relatable magical characters, it is “easy to forget they aren’t human”.
For Voth, it is all about finding the truth within the world these characters exist.
“Even the most ridiculous actions can be meaningful,” he says. “The great thing that C.S. Lewis did in creating these characters is that they could be real humans in how they act; they just so happen to be fauns and animals in a magical country.”
While playing multiple characters inside Reed’s adaptation of this fantastical world is a definite highlight for DeBoer, she also relishes how Lewis uses words.
“I love getting to speak CS Lewis’ beautiful prose,” she says. “His descriptions are positively delicious.”
DeBoer has also found herself drawn to The White Witch. “There’s something so cathartic about getting to play a villain,” she says.
Voth finds himself immersed inside the world being created by the show’s designers through music, lights, props and the set.
“I’ve really been moved just looking and listening to it sometimes,” he says.
Both actors are excited to share this classic story with audiences, and while DeBoer points to the wonder of imagination and magic the show can create for those watching, it is in seeing these familiar characters coming to life on a small stage which holds the most delight for Voth.
“I think this is one of those shows that truly has something for everyone,” says DeBoer.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe plays Vancouver’s Pacific Theatre November 30 – December 29. Visit pacifictheatre.org for tickets and information.