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17 December 2013

Anna McGarahan, actress

Anna McGarahan, actress

Anna McGarahan is an actress who has performed in musicals such as Scrooge at the London Palladium, Spring Awakening and West Side Story. Film and TV credits include Bleak House and two Harry Potter films. Now she stars as Lucy Pevensie in the brand new musical version of the CS Lewis classic, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

How do you feel about your current production?
I absolutely love it! The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has always been a novel dear to my heart and was a huge part of my childhood. I remember watching the BBC adaptation on Sundays before Songs of Praise. A 23-year-old playing an energetic eight-year-old Lucy is high energy and great fun. The show is going fantastically well at Oxford's Northwall Theatre and we've had really positive feedback from both audiences and reviewers.

Where did it all start?
I've wanted to sing for as long as I can remember. My parents joke that I could sing before I could speak. I went to the Sylvia Young Theatre School from 11 years old and then went on to study for a degree at Guildford School of Acting.

Have you had setbacks?
Well, yes and very recently too. I fell up the wooden stairs of the set during a matinee performance last week. They thought I might have fractured my shin! It's still black and blue and I'm dosed up on painkillers, but the show must go on, as they say. In the acting industry, the whole audition process can feel like one continuous setback. We are being judged 24/7. You have to prove yourself and it's really hard when you're down to the final stages not to take that rejection personally.

What do you like best about The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe story?
I love how much the Pevensie children change and grow up through their adventures in Narnia, especially Lucy. At the start she is a naive, innocent girl who looks to her older siblings for protection. In Narnia she soon learns that not everyone is trustworthy. Without experiencing evil in Narnia she could not cope with the reality and devastation of WW2 in London.

Do the gospel parallels in the story impact you?
Yes of course. I think it is particularly apparent when singing To Turn Time Back, my duet with Susan at the stone table over Aslan's dead body. I have a fresh realisation of God's grace every night and know that Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for us so that we could be free. Good always triumphs over evil and in the darkest moment of the final battle when all hope seems lost, Aslan comes to the rescue.

How do you find being a Christian as a professional actress?
I often feel quite isolated. I can count on my hand the number of other Christians that I know in this profession. There are so many broken people that look to other things to fill a void and emptiness within them. I just have to be real and love them for who they are and where they are at. Being a friend and someone they can trust is so important. I am open about my faith and pray for opportune conversations. However, I do have amazing support and accountability from my family and Christian friends.

Can you relate to the character of Lucy Pevensie?
Child-like optimism always bubbles out of her. I hope I am a bit like that. God calls us to look for the best in others, just as Lucy does, even when it may not be apparent on the surface. Lucy is brave and a real leader, despite her age. She is the first to trust Aslan and shows the others how to have faith, so that's a great example to me.

Have you been brought up a Christian?
When I tell people my dad is a vicar and my mum an RE teacher - that usually answers that question. But my parents have never forced faith on us. I had a few rebellious teenage years, but getting involved in the youth at HTB in sixth form was the real turning point and my faith has soared.

What part of the production are you most proud of?
I've been on board with this project from the first workshop stages three years ago, so I'm proud of what we've achieved so far. Working with the current cast is a real privilege – they're so talented. Stephen Luke Walker is a wonderful composer and his music is phenomenal. While our version is scaled down from the original, the score and script are epic.

Read a review of the show by Ruth Jackson