The Lion Inside: A Review

A heartwarming tale of bravery and friendship between two unlikely animals.

Sarah Punshon’s adaptation of Rachel Bright and Jim Field’s best-selling children’s book, The Lion Inside, began its international tour at the Rose Theatre yesterday (28 March), filling the room with laughter.

This fun and lively hour-long adaptation is the perfect family event to kick off the spring period with its magnificent prop designs and ambience of colours emblematic of any savannah setting.

The Lion Inside tells the story of Mouse, who fed up with being ignored by the other animals in the savannah, wishes he could roar like Lion.

The multi-million copy selling book, published by Hachette Children’s Group, proves that even the smallest of creatures can overcome their fears and stand out within a crowd.

In a recent interview, Punshon said: “Bringing such well-known and well-loved characters to life on stage is a big responsibility.

“Rachel’s words and Jim’s pictures are embedded in so many families’ hearts. My script needed to be true to the story we all know but find its own theatricality.”

Punshon’s play consisted of only three actors: Caitlin Mallory (Lion), James Keningale (Mouse), and Clarke Joseph-Edwards (Storyteller).

 However, there were more than three characters as the three actors alternated between their main characters and minor characters exceptionally, using expertly made costume props typical of any children’s play.

The stage setting, music, and audience interaction brought the savannah to life.

I must say, when I arrived in my seat surrounded by young children and families, I wondered what I had signed up for, but I wasn’t the only adult there alone, and I soon found out that the play is not just for children.

Punshon’s The Lion Inside began with Joseph-Edwards as Cricket hopping across the savannah and communicating only by comically saying tick, bringing the audience to fits of laughter.

However, I must say, I was most impressed by the intrinsic detail of the wooden cricket puppet and the way Joseph-Edwards, an actor and puppeteer, smoothly moved the puppet across the setting.

Following this humorous intro, Joseph-Edwards was soon joined by Mallory and Kenningale who sang in meticulous harmony.

Mallory had the most powerful and angelic voice; I was surprised to see her at the Rose Theatre and not on Broadway, especially as she’s from the US anyway.

At this point in the play, the melodic duo were not playing their main characters but instead alternating between different characters consisting of various animals belonging to the savannah.

They did so using props reminiscent of the animals they were playing.

However, we were soon introduced to Mouse by being taken into his tiny house, and I (and I’m sure many others) instantly fell in love with him with his kind persona and humbling relationship with Ferny (his pet fern).

Kenningale played Mouse remarkably, and I couldn’t help but wonder whether his legs were aching from crouching down for most of the play to manoeuvre his mouse prop.

The play takes us on Mouse’s journey to finding his roar, emitting a rollercoaster of emotions among the audience; we would go from emphasising with him to laughing with him. But what never changes is the feeling of wanting the best for him.

Throughout his journey, Mouse is ignored by the other animals, including the gossiping zebras (Mallory and Joseph-Edwards) and nearly trampled on by the elephants (Mallory and Joseph-Edwards) as they play leapfrog.

But the part of Mouse’s journey that really got the crowd laughing was when Mrs Hippo (the funniest character in my opinion, played by Mallory) emptied her bowels on Mouse.

Of course, this type of comedy is more likely to send young children into fits of laughter rather than a person in their mid-twenties like me, but I must admit, I could not help but giggle.

Now, you might expect that most children’s stories have a villain, especially when there’s a lion involved. But Mallory’s Lion was far from a villain and stole the show, embodying less of a lion and more of the king of rock ‘n’ roll, Elvis Presley.

There was nothing to fear from this rockin’ lion, and Mallory did a great job of encapsulating the audience by getting us to practice our roars numerous times.

I particularly loved Mallory’s rendition of Presley’s ‘Jailhouse Rock’ for which she switched the infamous jailhouse rock line to “it’s lion o’clock”.

It may have only been a Thursday afternoon, but it definitely got me swaying in my seat.

While the play had the audience laughing throughout, the ending brought to light the deeper meaning of the story. It highlighted the internal difficulty many people may face when it comes to meeting new people and making new friends; something I often experience myself due to social anxiety.

Because of this, I couldn’t help but empathise with Mouse throughout his journey and feel proud and inspired when Mouse finally found his roar.

The Lion Inside is running at the Rose Theatre until Sunday April 14.

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Editor and reporter for the Kingston Courier

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