CARLA Mendonca gives a towering performance as the White Witch with the icicle talons in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

"Towering" in the sense that in the climax to the first act, Mendonca rises and rises and rises, as ever-expanding white sheeting trails beneath her until you feel she could touch the roof of the Quarry Theatre. Then, amid a crack of thunder, the White Witch rushes downwards and out of view in the coup-de-theatre high point of Rae Smith's extraordinary designs.

"I can simply say it's a show on a huge scale," says Carla. "The Quarry has been converted to a 1,000-seat theatre in the round, which has never been done here before."

The Leeds theatre's big winter show is directed by Sally Cookson, whose National Theatre touring production of Jane Eyre so thrilled audiences in York, Leeds and Hull this year. "I did 101Dalmatians with Sally at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol three years," says Carla, who played, you guessed it, Cruella De Vil.

"It's very nice to be asked by Sally to play the White Witch, and it's such fun to play dark, villainous roles, having been extremely well brought up and generally thinking of myself as well behaved. It's fabulous to be able to shout and bring any anger and resentment you may have into the play."

Carla is playing the White Witch as "a sorceress from another world. "She's half giant, half Jinn [defined as a supernatural creature in early Arabian and later Islamic mythology and theology], which is where the word 'genie' comes from," she says.

She enjoys Cookson's working methods, in which the Playhouse version of C S Lewis's Narnian adventure has been devised in the rehearsal studios over seven weeks. "With this organic way of working, we had less of a script in place for 101 Dalmatians, where we had only five actors, but this time we have 17 in the cast and a really big creative team.

"We still had a lot of say in it, and it's been a collaborative process because The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe is an epic piece with huge, epic set pieces. For the climactic scene for the White Witch and Aslan [the lion], we spent a lot of time working out how to do it, working with Craig Leo, [the associate puppetry director] from War Horse, and Dan Canham, the choreographer from 101 Dalmatians. Music is a hugely important character in Sally's work too and Benji Bower's score is almost through-composed in this show."

Leaving the ground to spectacular effect at the Playhouse is completely new territory" for Carla. "I had to acclimatise over the rehearsal period," she reveals. "I do suffer vertigo but I've come through that and now I really enjoy being as high up as the back row."

She urges one and all to experience such an epic piece of theatre. "This show is even more beautiful and magical than the last time I worked with Sally," says Carla. "The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe is a wonderful story and I don't know any child who didn't read the book and then check out their wardrobe!"

The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe runs at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, until January 27. Box office: 0113 213 7700 or at