NarniaWeb Reviews Prince Caspian at The Logos Theatre
Review: Prince Caspian’s First Time on a Professional Stage
By Daughter of the King
TAYLORS, SC – If the essence of Narnia is a longing for home and the joy in finding it, then the Logos Theatre’s production of Prince Caspian could be a home away from home. (Trailer)
Upon entering the theater, the audience immediately sees two set pieces on opposite ends of the stage in front of the curtain: a tower on Miraz’s castle with a telescope at the top, and Trufflehunter’s den. Two different sides of the story soon to be brought together by the title character.
The play opens with a brief overview of the Telmarine backstory as told to a baby Caspian (McClain Preston) by his Nurse (Nicole Stratton). Those who are familiar with the book will recognize what is happening, and those who haven’t read the books or are only familiar with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, learn about what happened to Narnia since the Pevensies left. The opening also establishes Caspian’s role and his importance to Narnia early on so the audience has a hint of what’s to come.
The story continues from there very much like the book format starting with the Pevensies on a train platform. All four are excellent in their roles. Peter (Jeremiah Johnson) felt like the High King had walked right out of the book and onto the stage. Morgan Naegel as Lucy was occasionally hesitant with her delivery, but was always sincere during the more emotional parts. Susan (Laurel Williams) was a perfect blend of caring older sister and reluctant believer, while Edmund (Joshua Schuyler) balanced the character’s serious and humorous sides.
Drawn into Narnia
One of the most visually impressive special effects is the transition from England to Narnia. It’s very simply done with the crew moving the set pieces around the Pevensies as though they’ve been caught up in a magical whirlwind, but the lighting and music make the moment very dramatic and wonderful to watch. (Watch the scene)
The dialogue follows the book almost exactly for a good portion of the play, including most of the conversation about where the children are going to find food after they splash about in the ocean (another wonderful visual effect). Even so, the story moves fairly quickly to the discovery of the ruins of Cair Paravel, which featured one of the more poignant moments. After discovering the chess piece, there is a brief, but heartfelt flashback from Peter’s perspective of what Cair Paravel was like when they were last there.
The story lingers a little longer when they find the Treasure Chamber, establishing some important plot points (such as Susan’s horn), while also allowing for emotional depth. There is a definite sense of joy at finding their home, and loss that so much time has passed. Schuyler was particularly good in this scene as he simply but deeply expressed Edmund’s sorrow for what happened the last time. Watch the scene:
Even though book readers probably know what to expect, the show still manages to pull the audience in with nearly seamless transitions between scenes with very few pauses as well as bringing the action as close as possible. Such was the case with Trumpkin’s (John Harrett) introduction, as the Telmarines carried him kicking and screaming all the way down the center aisle to the lower end of the stage. Harrett played the comedic moments well, and also performed the more serious moments with a great deal of dignity.
The play again continues much like the book with the narrator taking over telling Caspian’s tale from Trumpkin, but then it actually expands on the story with more time in Caspian’s youth as well as involving more Telmarine characters.
We spend more time with the Nurse as she tells a young Caspian (Brinton Stratton) tales about Aslan (voiced by Nicky Chavers), Narnia, and his parents. This part also introduces Anwen (Elise Snow), a maiden in the court, and Jaco (Jedidiah Johnson), Caspian’s sword instructor. Both characters support Caspian after the Nurse is sent away and later aid Doctor Cornelius (Zachary Johnson) in helping Caspian escape. Usually, the play transitions to a slightly older Caspian (Dawson Mackey) before the Nurse leaves, but at Saturday’s performance Brinton Stratton played both parts. This may have been why he stumbled over his lines a few times, but he was utterly sincere throughout his performance, and cried real tears when Caspian and the Nurse are separated.
The separation is one of the more heartbreaking moments in the play. After an upset Caspian declares that Aslan isn’t real and is gone just like his parents, the Nurse presents him with a locket featuring a picture of his parents on one side, and her on the other. She then shows him her own locket with his parents and Caspian inside. It is a tender moment where they both promise to wear the lockets and always remember.
The play does slow down a bit during Caspian’s childhood, but the time is well spent. The Telmarines are given more emotional depth early on rather than waiting until near the end like the book. Some of them are clearly afraid of Miraz (Christian Lamas), who is proud and cruel without becoming an evil stereotype. Prunaprismia (Rebecca Swager) is prim and snide, with little to no compassion for Caspian. There are also some small, easy to overlook moments that nevertheless showcase the production’s attention to detail, such as Destrier reacting to Aslan’s name even though he’s just a dumb beast, Caspian wishing to learn navigation even though Miraz has forbidden it, and the entire title of Caspian’s grammar book.
Caspian (Sam Singleton) and Doctor Cornelius are a lot of fun to watch. Caspian’s eagerness to learn and his longing for Old Narnia are well expressed, and Cornelius’ brisk but solemn tutelage also feels true to the book.
The set pieces continue to be impressive throughout the show. The characters moved almost without pausing between the large, rotating pieces that make up the interior of the castle to the tower that is a permanent fixture on one corner of the stage.
It takes a while for any sense of urgency to build up, but Anwen pulls Cornelius aside after the conversation on the astronomy tower, implying Caspian may soon be in trouble. After that, the story moves quickly again. Caspian’s goodbye to Cornelius is just as touching as in the book, and the addition of Jaco and Anwen waiting with his horse to send him away enhances that moment. The audience and Caspian know that some Telmarines are still loyal to him, which makes more of an emotional impact.
Caspian’s flight is the first time he rides the extremely impressive Destrier puppet, and it is also the audience’s first look at the Narnian trees. Some are clearly people on stilts, but the costumes suggest bark and leaves and the audience’s imagination fills in the rest. A few of the trees are even more impressive with actors on wires rising up from beneath the floor of the stage until they almost reach the rafters overhead.
Caspian meeting the Old Narnians is one of the funnier parts of the play. There is a lot of rapid, overlapping dialogue between Trumpkin, Nikabrik (Stephen Warren), and Trufflehunter (Thomas Allen). But the tone is lighthearted rather than mocking. For the most part, the Narnians are actually quite impressive with the actors moving very much like the creatures they are portraying, particularly Rachel Bjorkman as Pattertwig and Amber Swager as Camilo the Hare. Unfortunately, that wasn’t true across the board as the centaurs were underwhelming. Although Glenstorm (Matthew Hainsworth) had an imposing and solemn presence even if he didn’t look much like a centaur. This part also introduced one of the odder departures from the book: Mrs. Trufflehunter (Allison Craft), who seems to exist solely for a “quit badgering me” joke between the two badgers later on in the play.
The play doesn’t include the various skirmishes described in the book, but instead opens the second act with a scene having several wounded animals entering Aslan’s How followed by the conversation about blowing the horn. The audience is made aware that time has passed since the Narnians headed for Aslan’s How at the end of the first act without an extended action sequence that might be necessary in film.
Journey to Aslan’s How
The story slows down again much like the book as the play goes back to the Pevensies and Trumpkin. Both the duel and archery challenge from the book are included, although the fight choreography is somewhat similar to the movie, especially the end with Edmund standing over Trumpkin. Nicknaming Trumpkin the DLF is almost word for word from the book.Much of the rest of the journey to the How is also like the book, but not all of it. Lucy attempting to wake the trees is on the same night as meeting Aslan rather than the night before, and the trees don’t show any signs of waking. There is also a brief interlude where Miraz asks Sopespian (Joe Hainsworth) how construction on the bridge is progressing even though it was already established that there is a bridge at Beruna’s Bridge.
The heated conversations between the characters about which direction they should go and whether or not Lucy saw Aslan are well performed. Williams especially shines during these scenes, clearly showcasing Susan’s hesitance and fear as she is the last to follow Lucy.
The Aslan puppet is large and not only moves impressively, but Chavers’ performance is also impressive with a majestic voice that perfectly captures the not tame but good aspects of Aslan. While the movies may have had a more realistic looking lion, the movies don’t have Aslan walking off the stage and down the center aisle past the audience. It was a great moment as Aslan walked past, and then the Pevensies and Trumpkin followed.
The High King in Command
The Sorcery and Sudden Vengeance scene had intense music and lighting, and Nikabrik, the Hag (Mary Beth Smith), and the werewolf (Jonah Cofer) were suitably sinister when delivering their individual lines, but they broke the tension by breaking into maniacal laughter a few too many times. Even so, the sudden blackout just as Caspian is bit and Peter, Edmund, and Trumpkin charge in is chilling. Book lovers will appreciate the scene that follows with Caspian being awed by Peter and Edmund’s presence and Peter insisting that he is not there to take Caspian’s place.
The discussion of the challenge is shortened, with the conversation between Glozelle (Marshall Preston) and Sopespian about their motivations occurring after they have already goaded Miraz into accepting the challenge. It makes the scene somewhat more disturbing as they reveal that even Miraz’s supporters tire of his rule after they have already pretended to show concern for Miraz.
After this point, the story quickly jumps back and forth between the duel and the romp, showing what was happening simultaneously. Bacchus and Silenus were not included, and the romp consisted mostly of dryads, forest creatures, and Telmarine women they gathered on their way. The trees awakening was one of the greatest moments as, after being so still in the prior scenes, they all bowed to Aslan at the same time. The river god was even more impressive. The actor flew up out of the water through the cracks in the bridge as it crumbled into pieces after Aslan roared.
Although the fight choreography for the duel was well done, the emphasis was on the emotional beats. The lighting was tinted red, and Peter and the Narnians’ desperation was clearly shown. During the middle of the fight, dryads abruptly ran into the center of the stage and the scene transitioned back to the romp with Aslan standing in the exact same spot where Peter and Miraz were dueling moments before. The emotional parts of the story continued to be the emphasis as Aslan healed the Nurse. The audience was closer to crying during that scene than any other time during the play.
The scene transitioned back to the duel in basically the same way with Peter and Miraz abruptly running to center stage and continuing the duel. It was slightly jarring to go from one scene to the other so abruptly, but it kept the action flowing in a more direct way than finishing the duel and battle before going to the romp would have done.
The battle itself was also well staged. The majority of the stage was covered in a sinister red light with the fighting happening very slowly, but there was also a brighter spotlight that moved to different parts of the stage. The characters in the spotlight would fight at a very fast pace. This staging allowed some character moments to be the focus while also having a lot of action happening at the same time. The best parts were Reepicheep weaving in and out of the fight before being wounded, Jaco rushing to save Caspian after another Telmarine soldier pins Caspian down, and the trees charging in and beating off the Telmarines with their branches.
The rest of the play is mostly focussed on the emotions. After the longing for the old days throughout most of the play, there is definite joy once Narnia has been restored. The healing of Reepicheep’s tail is one such moment (and a neat special effect). The reunion of Caspian and his Nurse is also joyful, though tearful as well. There is also some bittersweetness, as Jaco volunteers to be the first Telmarine through the door into the other world (his disappearance was another of the amazing special effects). The tone is bittersweet again as the Pevensies leave. And it ended as all adaptations of Prince Caspian should: with a hearty laugh over Edmund leaving his new torch in Narnia.
Overall, Prince Caspian at the Logos Theatre is, quite simply, good theater. Even theater-goers who aren’t Narnia fans should enjoy the show. The script, actors, and effects are all amazing. Some of the more visual aspects seems to have been inspired by the films, such as some of the costumes and the Treasure Chamber set design, but the vast majority of the show is clearly inspired by the book and a desire to be true to C.S. Lewis’ vision.
The final run of Prince Caspian will end in April 2018. Order NarniaWebber discounted tickets.