Just as the Pevensie children jumped off the pages of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” and Prince Caspian saved Narnia before audiences’ very eyes, “The Chronicles of Narnia” continue at The Logos Theatre with “The Horse and His Boy.”
Set south of Narnia in Calormen, “The Horse and His Boy” tells the tale of young servant Shasta and his talking horse Bree as they escape from a cruel master in the journey of a lifetime.
With nonstop action, life-size puppets, and intriguing sets straight from a fairy tale, the production’s U.S. premiere has drawn far-off Narnia fans — from England to Indonesia — to the Upstate’s somewhat hidden gem.
Writer and director Nicole Stratton wanted to remain true to the Narnia books in all her adaptations. She says “The Horse and His Boy” was the most challenging due to numerous characters’ backstories and perspectives.
“I love to follow what C.S. Lewis says and what he wants,” Stratton says. “I think that’s what strengthens our play, but that was a challenge.”
Creating realistic horses that could be ridden posed one challenge. In addition to Bree, a horse named Hwin, belonging to a young girl named Aravis, plays an important part in the story.
“Bree … always has this infatuation a little bit with wanting to roll in the grass,” Stratton says with a laugh. “So the horses had to be flexible enough to get all the way down on the ground.”
To make the two full-scale horse puppets even more believable, they have ears that flick and hooves that click.
Extra thought also went into creating the fantasy Calormen culture in order to avoid replicating any real-life culture. The sandy desert Calormen and the snowy cold Narnia cultures converge in “The Horse and His Boy.”
Aslan the lion remains the central figure in the story. “The message would be that he has been and is with us every step of our lives, guiding, protecting, and moving us toward our ultimate destiny,” Stratton says.
A message of hope in desperate times also permeates the play. “Both children in the story are dealing with circumstances that they feel like it would be better for them to die than have to go through the circumstance,” she says. Stratton wants audiences to leave feeling hopeful after the imaginative experience.
Assistant director Zac Johnson, portraying the Hermit of the Southern March that aids Shasta and Aravis, says the production is a unique, exciting experience.
“It’s this big fantasy awesome thing, but there’s so many encouraging, beautiful truths all sprinkled throughout it that it’s like the story itself, the scenes itself, is just one beautiful thing after another,” Johnson says.
Audiences can also expect to see the lovable Tumnus played by head set-constructor Joe Hainsworth. “In a lot of ways, [Tumnus] is very much the same, but he’s got a lot more wisdom,” he says. “He’s able to see things down the road and give some really good advice.”
“The Horse and His Boy”
When: March 1-April 27
Where: The Logos Theatre, 80 School St., Taylors