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Belfast kids invited to Narnia-inspired Christmas show during CS Lewis Festival

Jenny Lee highlights this year's CS Lewis Festival by speaking to Mary Jordan, director of a new children's Christmas show inspired by the east Belfast author's work

Mary Jordan, Alice McCullough, Mike Smith and Peter Francis Fahy getting ready for the Most Magical Library. Picture by Neal Campbell

FAMILIES are invited to help save Christmas this weekend as part of a new Narnia-inspired Christmas experience during this year’s CS Lewis Festival.

The Most Magical Library of the Best Stories Ever is one of the highlights of the east Belfast festival, which runs from November 22 to 26.

Written by Alice McCullough, it is co-devised and directed by Belfast actress and theatre practitioner Mary Jordan.

"We’ve created a very magical series of realms to take the children and the grown-ups – if they behave – on a magical adventure. We are very excited, and are busy beavering away making fairy houses and allsorts for the set."

Within the specially designed space in CS Lewis Square, children and families will encounter fantastical characters before finally meeting Santa himself.

The idea for the show began eight years ago when Alice and Mary worked on an outdoor Narnia show at the Sunflowerfest in Hillsborough. Acknowledging the contributions of east Belfast's most famous literary son, the new show is based around the idea of a magical library.

"Audiences will be invited in to hear the best Christmas stories ever told. There is a lot of talk about books, words and magic letters and the kids will be encouraged to share with us their favourite words and stories," says Mary, who also stars as the evil Snow Queen who will be "lurking in the forest".

"Inspired by the White Witch in the Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, she will do everything in her power to prevent any Christmas stories being told. She also makes the Literary Fairy [Louise Parker] as tall as a human – which is very inconvenient."

To counteract the evil Snow Queen, all the other characters are endearing, including tour guides Finn Faun (Peter Francis Fahy), Elfy (Cathy Brennan Bradley) and the endearing gardener Augustus (Mike Smith).

Aimed at audiences aged four and over, there will be five daily performances of The Most Magical Library of the Best Stories Ever.

"It’s very much about engaging the imagination, suspense, magic and poking a bit of fun at the grown-ups – because children are so much cleverer," adds Mary, herself a massive CS Lewis fan.

And why does she believe his stories still appeal to children today? "It’s the storytelling, the transporting to a magical different world and the danger. There is always a lot at stake in the stories, which gives the children more ownership of the adventure.

"In our story, there is the danger of Christmas being ruined by the Snow Queen if the characters, with the children’s help, don’t manage to come up with something to foil their plans."

For the adults, the show also hints at current social issues. "Obviously it’s a family show, but we do have a homeless fairy, because when she was made human size all her fairy folk frightened of her."

"There are a lot of ideas in it and it’s been a massive labour of love," adds Mary.

:: For full festival information and booking, visit Eastsidearts.net/cs-lewis-festival

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