Lion Boy

It’s always nice to see some warm and light-hearted storytelling. In this case, it comes in the form of theatre company Complicite’s adaptation of Zizou Corder’s Lionboy trilogy.

Upon walking into the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Courtyard Theatre, I immediately took an interest in the set. A few piles of hay and some drums littered the stage, but there wasn’t much else. It soon became clear to me that Complicite didn’t actually need anything on the stage to tell their spectacular story.

The entire company worked together incredibly tightly as a coherent ensemble. Each and every one of their characters was strong, particularly those portrayed by Lisa Kerr, who played an acrobat, a cat and a chameleon with ease, and whose performance I particularly enjoyed.  It’s that tightness and strength of an ensemble that helps the story really stand out.

Despite the strength of the actors, the technical aspects of the production are what really made the show interesting. The use of cameras to present a scene from two different perspectives was something I found particularly different, as it made me shift my gaze and focus on two different areas at once, which kept me engaged with the performance. The use of sound was also interesting, most notably during the transformations that Charlie Ashanti, played by Adetomiwa Edun, underwent, when he assumed the role of the cats and lions he spoke to. I also found that the lighting in the climactic scene of the performance was astonishing – I really saw the utter drive and passion of the characters in response to what was happening to their world, but only because of the spectacular lighting display at the end.

Whilst I loved Lionboy’s story, characters and technical features I couldn’t help but wish that the company had done a little more with the production. For example, the first small piece of audience involvement cropped up when one of the characters threw a slippery eel straight at one of the audience members, which caused me to watch in anticipation as to what would happen next. However, I felt slightly let down when the next bit of audience participation didn’t occur until almost the end of the performance, when Charlie fights against a member of the Corporacy in a boxing match. Whilst audience involvement it is something that should not be done too frequently, it is something special that makes the audience feel part of the production and gives them a much more memorable experience.

There were also some touching moments which brought a grin to my face, including when Charlie set off in his hot air balloon, in which a miniature hot air balloon went on its own journey above the audience’s heads. Moments like that really make shows incredibly memorable.

All in all, Complicite’s production of Lionboy is warm and touching and should definitely be checked out before it creeps away, back into the jungle.

Photo by Mark Douet