The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at the HaymarketBy Sophie Herdman
December 02, 2009
A Lower Earley actor is spending Christmas in a winter wonderland ruled by a lion. Sophie Herdman travels through the wardrobe to find out more
This Christmas a former Holt School pupil will embrace her inner child as she heads to the winter wonderland of Narnia.
Anne-Marie Piazza, 25, is playing Susan in the Haymarket theatre’s production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe which launches on Friday and she can’t wait.
The actress has always been a fan of C S Lewis’ seminal works and is relishing the chance to reignite some childhood memories.
“I loved it” she says of the series of seven books. “I got the books down from the attic and re-read them to follow the journey and see what happens.”
This is not Anne-Marie’s first time performing in the childhood tale. At 15, she played Mrs Beaver in a production at Reading’s Progress Theatre, a character she still favours. This is not her first time in a younger role either – Archers Addicts will instantly recognise her voice as she currently plays troublesome teenager Annette Turner in the Radio 4 soap.
“It has followed me throughout my career,” she says of her playing another young role. “I am petite and young-looking. You just have to be careful that the pigtails don’t take over and you act like a five-year-old.”
Anne-Marie graduated from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School just over a year ago and has spent much of her acting career on stage. However, she recently branched out onto airwaves, becoming a regular on BBC Radio. Alongside The Archers, she has had roles in I Believe I Have Genius,
Unchoreographed World and The Day They Wouldn’t Take It Anymore, but she’s also glad to be back on stage for the festive season.
“At the theatre you spend a lot of time together.
On The Archers you only go in for one week a month, not even the whole week, and the same people aren’t always there. You build up a rapport over a long time. This has been more playful and it’s been really enjoyable working on the rapport between the four kids.”
This is Anne-Marie’s first appearance on The Haymarket’s stage, something that she’s enjoying.
“It is really nice, it is a good size but still intimate.
It has a good feel and you get a good reaction, each audience member feels they are close and the acoustics are really good.”
After only a few weeks of rehearsals the cast are bonding fast and so far everything is running smoothly.
“It has gone really quickly and it is already on its feet. As it’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, we all know it and have had the scripts for a while so it was easier.
“The cast are a really good troop. One of the four children is someone I went to the National Youth Theatre with and the other two know each other from drama school so it is a bit of a reunion really.”
With most theatres showing pantomimes over the Christmas period, why should people go to Narnia?
“It’s more magical than a pantomime and you can get lost and carried away with the story – and it has a real Christmassy feel,” she says, harking to the fact that in Narnia it’s always winter and never Christmas until the Pevensie children turn up.
“To keep the audience wrapped up in the story the costumes are more hinted at than obvious,” she says.
Luckily for Anne-Marie, the Basingstoke theatre is not far from mum and dad in Lower Earley so she will be able to spend Christmas Day at home, although she probably won’t get an ivory horn, bow, and arrows from Santa.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe runs from Friday until Saturday, January 2 at The Haymarket Theatre in Basingstoke. To book tickets, call the theatre on 01256 844244 or log on to www. anvilarts. org.uk.