Talking lions, circus performers, and one boy taking on an evil global corporation – what more could you want from children’s theatre?
Loud bangs, acrobatics, a boxing match and flashing lights – Lionboy has them all.
It’s not easy putting on plays for children but Complicite’s production at the Wales Millennium Centre, based on the popular Lionboy book trilogy, balances great story telling with exciting drama.
You generally know if a play has grabbed the attention of its young audience by the level of noise and I didn’t hear much sweet paper crunching or whispering, a sure sign that the spectators were rapt.
That was largely thanks to Adetomiwa Edun as Ashanti, who triumphantly succeeds (where many have failed) at convincingly depicting the character of a child.
Ashanti is an 11-year old boy who speaks Cat. When his parents are kidnapped he sets off to find them with the help of felines, large and small, until he is taken in by a travelling circus where he befriends and eventually frees, a group of lions.
Along the way he encounters giant drug company, the Corporacy, which has abducted his parents to stop them finding a cure for asthma.
Ashanti’s quest takes on a darker side as the story gathers pace, exploring how we treat animals, the politics of animal testing and, of course, the circus.
The action finally comes together in a dark twist when Ashanti arrives at the Corporacy headquarters to find caged animals used for research.
Releasing them with help from a chameleon which talks the language of anything it touches, Ashanti shuts down the company’s computer in a final scene of explosions, bangs, flashing lights and chaos.
The set design seems sparse at first but is used to breathtaking effect.
A giant slanted disc centre stage transforms itself from a blood red sky to a shadow puppet theatre, the Corporacy headquarters and finally the exploding computer.
Most effective of all is when three actors creep behind the disc to create the shadow image of a perfect lion’s head.
The lions themselves are played by Edun who leaps from boy to big cat with a mix of movement, voice and sound recording.
This is a triumph in children’s theatre. Glittering, funny and exciting Lionboy inspires as it entertains.
Lionboy runs until tomorrow at the WMC. Age guidance 8+. Tickets from the box office on 029 2063 6464 or via www.wmc.org.uk