Arrows flying and swords clanging during an epic battle. A valiant prince galloping his horse deep into the foreboding woods. A wrecked ship and an exploding bridge.
It sounds like something you’d watch on a movie screen. Yet this time it’s happening right in front of you, live on stage.
The Logos Theatre’s popular production of the C.S. Lewis classic “Prince Caspian,” the second book in “The Chronicles of Narnia,” returns on Feb. 2 for a three-month run.
“It’s got an extremely cinematic feel,” says Zac Johnson, who serves as an assistant director on the production and also plays Dr. Cornelius. “One of the reasons why very few theatrical companies in the world have ever attempted to do ‘Prince Caspian’ is because it’s so full of what I can only describe as magic tricks. It is loaded with special effects.”
To writer and director Nicole Stratton, that cinematic feel sprang naturally from the source material. “That really was born out of me just trying to stay really true to C.S. Lewis’ creativity,” she says. “In the book, he tells you what happens over here and then what happens over here, but really it’s all happening at the same time. That’s what spurred on my creative thinking to try to mix them together when I showed the transitions, so you’re watching time being layered on itself. To be able to do that on stage, to make you feel like you’re watching several things happening at the same time — well, it was a lot of fun trying to think up how to do it.”
Fidelity to the book was of paramount importance to Stratton, which resulted in many creative challenges. “In the book, Caspian makes this dramatic exit from his castle, and of course he makes it on his horse, Destrier, which can’t really be written out of the script, in my opinion, if you’re going to do it justice, because he goes through the woods, with trees coming up in front of him, and he falls off his horse and hits his head. So there isn’t really a way for him to fall off and hit his head if he’s not on a horse.”
That led to the creation of one of many impressive puppets that figure in the production. “We’ve built a full-on rideable horse puppet,” Johnson says. “Three puppeteers man him, and the actor who plays Caspian actually hops up on the horse and rides around on the stage.”
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“You actually hear the clopping of the horse,” Stratton says. “Puppetry is very visual, but you have to take into consideration the other senses that people have — for instance, hearing — and they’re used to the sound of a horse, and I think that’s what really helps make Destrier even more convincing. His eyes and his face are so realistic, but the clomping of his feet and the weight of him make him seem like he’s really real.”
Stratton says that another challenge of staging a beloved story like “Prince Caspian” is the fear of leaving things out. “It doesn’t seem like he has anything excess in the book. Everything is so needed, and you’re really trying to make sure that you craft it in a way that people don’t have to sit there for four hours.”
It’s also a very personal project for her. “The Narnia books have been life-changing for me, and I want to do them justice. I want young people to be inspired to read them again so that they can be part of their lives forever and really help sculpt their thinking. We’ve got so much negativity around us right now, and young people are burdened with a lot of that, and they need to read something that gives them hope, that gives them courage, that helps them to see that they can be more than what they’re thinking they can be.”
The production debuted in late 2016 with a second run last year. The current run is the last one scheduled for the foreseeable future. “We’re going to run it for three months, then it has to go away because we’re debuting the next Narnia book,” Stratton says. “When people come to see ‘Caspian,’ they get to see a really cool live reveal of the next book that we’re doing.”
“It’s just one awesome thing after another,” Johnson says.
Written and directed by Nicole Stratton
Performed with permission by the C.S. Lewis Co.
When: Feb. 2-April 28; times vary (performance runs about 2 ½ hours)
Where: The Logos Theatre, 80 School St., Taylors
Info: 864-268-9342 or thelogostheatre.com
NEIL SHURLEY | CONTRIBUTOR