One Thousand Pages in Two Hours
Wales Millennium Centre
From entertaining children with the written word to entertaining children on the stage, Complicite’s production of the bestselling trilogy Lionboy has pulled out all the stops to live up to the books’ high standards. The production, which follows the plight of 11 year old Charlie Ashanti (Adetomiwa Edun) as he races to rescue his abducted parents, stars a simple but talented eight-man cast. Of course, it isn’t the thought-provoking idea of the small Charlie chasing down the abductor, the evil pharmaceutical giant, The Corporacy, which appeals most to the children, but his fantastical power to communicate with cats.
With just a flying disk and movable lighting bars in terms of set, the pressure is all on the actors to bring the tale to life. Each actor speaks and moves with individuality, so much so that at times it is difficult to keep your eyes on one person. The audience is left astounded by a section of awe-inspiring gymnastics on a suspended hoop by the young Lisa Kerr (who plays a variety of roles in the production.) Also particularity admirable is acute use of cat mannerisms which allow Adetomiwa Edun to make quick transitions from animal form to human form naturally and effectively. With no props to aid him, Edun manages to move believingly from the adventurous young Charlie to a hostile lion in just a leap, twirl and feline arm movement. The superb acting leaves little effort for the imagination.
African style instruments accompany the show, played live by a single musician. The particular use of the styled instruments is perfect for the setting of the tale, which mostly takes place in Africa. In addition to this, the actors’ own voices are atmospheric and blend well together to create tension in the most hair-rising sections of the play. No corny solos ruin the ambience.
One of the most difficult aspects of children entertainment is the children’s short attention span. However, the strategically placed twenty minute interval fifty minutes into the show provides a perfect opportunity for the younger ones to refresh, and during the show the use of visual creations such as a lion face created by the shadow of three people does not fail to keep the audience’s eyes on the stage. Similarly to The Britain’s Got Talent 2013 winner, Attraction, who shadow danced their way to the throne, this creative form of entertainment has proved itself to be a big winner with the general public.
Although the interaction with the audience throughout the play also makes the performance more interesting, the cheesy ten to fifteen minute boxing match at the end of the show is a big let-down, in my opinion. The match, which is between The Corporacy and Charlie, requires the audience to cheer for their preferred side, turning the production into a cheap pantomime, which brings the professionalism of the show down a notch. The boxing match, which is obviously intended to be an interesting way to get across the positives and negatives of The Corporacy’s controversial methods of finding the cure for asthma, is overly cheesy and drags on. I personally feel that the actors are a little too reliant on the audience’s responses rather than their own acting skills.
Ultimately, I would recommend Lionboy to anyone looking for an entertaining evening. With enough visual effects to keep children’s attention and plenty of thought-provoking ideas and superb acting to keep adults and teens more than satisfied, it’s sure to provide a spectacular show. Although the cheesiness of the boxing match drags down the overall standard of the show, Lionboy is worth a trip to your nearest theatre.