Theater Notes
by Pablo A. Tariman

Watching a stage adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ “The Horse and His Boy” (one of the several in the Narnia-set fantasy novels for children) is like being drawn into another world where horses and lions talk and where young people find easy escape from utter hopelessness.

The talking horses and a lion in Trumpets' theater adaptation of C.S. Lewis' "The Horse and His Boy."

The talking horses and a lion in Trumpets’ theater adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ “The Horse and His Boy.”

To this non-reader of the C.S.Lewis series, watching the play is an education and a quick invitation to Narnialand.

Mayen Cadd as the story teller set the tone for the play with her highly appealing opening song.

Easily the standout is the production design of Mio Infante, the choreography of Dexter Santos, the lighting design of John Batalla and the puppetry of Otto Hernandez.

To be sure, the talking horses, Bree and Hwin, are virtual show-stealers as the masterful movement and choreography made the animals look like the real thing and talking like humans.

Indeed, the animals – voiced by Joel Trinidad, Matthew Barbers, Edrei Tan, Vincent Pajara, Chesko Rodriguez and the ensemble — dazzled like nobody’s business and you could hear both children and adults reacting with spontaneous delight.

Equally admirable is the Shasta of Reb Atadero and the Aravis of Cara Barredo and their versatile ensembles.

Adapting a children’s novel into a play material is no walk in the park and here Luna Grino Inocian gives us a fascinating two and a half hour sampling from the classic C.S. Lewis children’s tale and emerged triumphant.

The deft direction of Jaime del Mundo allowed audiences an easy access into the C.S. Lewis story even with many characters trying to vie for attention in your consciousness.

Playwright Luna Grino Inocian with C.S. Lewis' stepson, Douglas Gresham. 'Filipinos have amazing freedom of imagination.'

Playwright Luna Grino Inocian with C.S. Lewis’ stepson, Douglas Gresham. ‘Filipinos have amazing freedom of imagination.’

The truth is you get inner voices from the author’s work as the play progresses. It seemed you have to watch it again and again to find out if the same scenes register another meaning.

As it is, “The Horse and His Boy” triumphs as a non-musical with nuggets of insights in store for both children and adults.

In 2008, The Times has ranked C.S. Lewis number 11 on its list of “the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.”

Lewis’s stepson, Douglas Gresham, was in town to watch the Manila premiere of the theater adaptation of “Horse and His Boy.”

At the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf café in Shangri-La Plaza, Gresham greeted young readers of the Chronicles of Narnia and shared insight into his stepfather’s works of which he is one of the literary executors.

His first encounter with Filipino theater producers was Trumpets’ production of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe also based on one of Lewis’ popular fantasy novels.

Gresham observed that Filipinos have a way of making things beautiful even with difficult productions.

Asked what made his stepfather’s works last for many decades especially among young readers, Gresham said Lewis works always spoke the truth. “If you have truth on your side, your work will last and will continue to appeal to coming generations,” he added.

The Lewis literary estate now in his hands, Gresham had to see to it the stage adaptations adhere close to the original work.

For this reason, playwright Inocian had to clear everything with him notably in the area of interpretation. “I perfectly understood why he was very particular about how certain works have to be interpreted on stage. On the other, I have to be honest with him that certain things have to be changed to conform with Filipino theater audience. I am familiar with American and British culture but I am also aware of the Filipino culture and how it interacts with foreign influences. Thus, I am certain some plays will not work with Filipino audiences unless you connect with their culture in another level.”

Moreover, Inocian believed that “Horse and His Boy” will appeal to the young child and the restless adolescents for some reasons.

Director Jaime del Mundo. Deft handling of another favorite children's tale.

Director Jaime del Mundo. Deft handling of another favorite children’s tale.

She pointed out: “Those who would prefer something deeper and more profound will likely find it in this adaptation because I have chosen to see it as a journey of faith, a realization that we are never truly alone, that every step of the way someone has been there with us – encouraging, prodding, pushing us towards the path we must take. The re-telling of the story was a tad more difficult because I could not rely on music to sweep audiences off its feet. Words had to tell the tale and it should live up to Lewis’ work and yet addressed to a newer, younger generation more used to fast-paced visuals.”

Asked how to comment on the Trumpets’ latest production, Gresham concluded, “What I discovered in watching this production is that Filipinos have amazing freedom of imagination.”

The Trumpets’ production of “Horse and His Boy” has additional performances Nov. 14 (3 and 8 p.m.), Nov. 15 (3 p.m.), November 21 (3 and 8 p.m.) and November 22 (3 p.m.)

Call 901-4364 or TICKETWORLD at 891-9999 or visitwww.ticketworld.com.ph.

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