An award-winning theatre director is planning to reimagine The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for the modern age – by doing away with the ‘posh’ elements of C. S. Lewis’s story.
Rupert Goold - the British director who has previous when it comes to adapting children’s classics for the stage after 2001’s The Wind in the Willows – told the The Times that his version of Lucy Pevensie’s journey into Narnia will be “rougher”, “less Enid Blyton-like” and “less period”. He added that the characters would be “less irritating”.
The play will be shown next summer from a tent in the plush surroundings of Kensington Gardens, London and will include a mixture of hi-tech puppetry and video technology provided by threesixty, the theatre company behind a recent globally successful adaptation of Peter Pan.
Goold told the paper that the problem with previous stage versions of the book has been "four children who you can’t really differentiate between, who seem rather privileged and succeed through right of their blood line” - something he says his version will change.
The announcement has already attracted derision from some fans of the original tale, notably Toby Young in the Telegraph who has dismissed Goold (above) as a ‘Labour luvvie’ who wants to give the story the ‘politically correct treatment’.
“I hate to break it to you, Rupes, but the only children who'll go and see your production will be from exactly the same "privileged" strata of society as the Pevensie family. The notion that they won't be able to identify with the children on stage unless you turn them into funky representatives of multi-culti Britain is ludicrous,” he writes.
It isn’t the first time Lewis’s Narnia book has stirred up controversy some 60 years after it was first published in 1950.
In 2005 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was adapted for the big screen by Walt Disney and enjoyed a successful run at the box office, but not before stirring up a debate surrounding the story’s overtly religious message.
At the time some critics argued that the death and resurrection of the lion Aslan – Lewis’s Christ figure – was too dated for a secular society. Actors associated with the film series have tried to argue that Aslan isn’t necessarily a Christian icon, something at odds with Lewis’s own assertion that "The whole Narnian story is about Christ," before his death in 1963.
However, Goold is apparently adamant that, like the film franchise, his version of the world through the wardrobe won’t be stripped of its religious symbolism – he confirmed that the fate of Aslan will remain at “the heart” of his production.
Goold has twice won Best Director at the Olivier awards, for Macbeth in 2008 and again for Enron in 2010.