The great thing about Christmas is the wide variety of shows put on to appeal to adults and children alike. This is definitely true of “Lionboy” at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn.
Based on the books by Zizou Corder, “Lionboy” tells the story of Charlie Ashanti (Martins Imhangbe) a young boy living in London in the near future. Charlie’s world isn’t that different from our own. Phones are powered by the sun (an innovation I personally can’t wait to see), cars are banned – unless you are rich – and companies are more powerful than governments (some might argue we are already living with this one). The biggest and, by definition, most corrupt of these is the pharmaceutical giant, “The Corporacy” which controls medicines, especially asthma medication, which is needed more and more as the number of world-wide sufferers increases because of pollution, or possibly cats.
Charlie is a fairly normal boy in many respects. His parents are both scientists working on a cure for asthma – which he suffers with. Oh yes, there is something a bit odd about him though. Due to a run-in with a leopard as a baby, he can speak to cats, but more of that later. Charlie returns home one day to find his parents have disappeared. A neighbour, Rafi Sadler (Angel Lopez-Silva) gives him a note, supposedly from his mother, but which is so transparently faked that Charlie realise his parents have been kidnapped and like all good dutiful sons, doesn’t bother with the police but sets out to find them himself, aided by some sound advice by the local cats – especially the outcast Sergei (Eric Mallett) – and being followed by Rafi, who is definitely up to something. On his journey to find his parents, Charlie encounters a boat called The Circe on which is “The Circus” run by Major Thibaudet (Dan Milne). Charlie joins them, as you do, and meets the lovely Madame Barbue (Victoria Gould) and a really nasty piece of work Maccimo (Femi Elufowoju, jr) who has captured and tamed lions to perform for the punters. As everyone knows, lions are just cats on a much bigger scale and Charlie quickly uses his special abilities to establish a rapport with them leading to an exciting climax of the first act involving a ship, Paris and the Orient Express. The second act follows Charlie’s progress as he searches for his parents in Venice and Morocco (the boy really knows how to get about) and with help of Sergi and a chameleon called Ninu (Lisa Kerr) he infiltrates “The Corporacy” leading to a final showdown with the all-powerful CEO (Clive Mendus) and some real truths for young Charlie to face.
Shows aimed at everyone from 8 years old upwards have to have a certain spark that ones aimed at others just don’t need and “Lionboy” really does. The set is wonderful, looking like a circus with its painted stage and multi-functioning circular lighting above. Directors Clive Mendus and James Yeatman use all the theatre to move their small cast (only 8 in number but playing so many roles it often felt like there were so many more) around and ensure that everyone’s attention is focussed on Charlie and his friends. There are lots of surprises to entertain – watch out for the fisherman’s very lively catch – and brilliant use is made of a minimum number of props to illustrate Charlie’s journey, my particular favourites were the aluminium ladders in Act II which were so effective in bringing to life “The Corporacy’s” headquarters. Although there is a sub-text about the negativity of big corporations, it isn’t laid on with a trowel and I was particularly impressed with the “boxing match” which not only allowed both sides to put their case (rather like the end of Urinetown in some respects) but was also thoroughly and noisily enjoyed by every member of the audience. A bit of a mixture of theatrical styles (pantomime, musical, ‘straight play’) “Lionboy” promises to be something for everyone and fully lives up to its promise. A real Christmas treat for all the family.
Review by Terry Eastham
Complicite’s Lionboy from the novels by Zizou Corder
Adapted by Marcelo Dos Santos
at Tricycle Theatre, 269 Kilburn High Rd, London NW6 7JR
17 December 2014 — 10 January 2015
Femi Elufowoju, Victoria Gould, Martins Imhangbe, Lisa Kerr, Angel Lopez-Silva, Eric Mallett, Clive Mendus, Dan Milne, Stephen Hiscock
Directors: Clive Mendus and James Yeatman; Designer: Jon Bausor; Co-Designer: Jean Chan
Original Lighting Designer: Tim Mascall; Lighting Designer (revival): Christopher Nairne
Sound Designer: Tom Gibbons; Associate Sound Designer: Pete Malkin
Movement: Clive Mendus and Kasia Zaremba-Byme
Sunday, 21st December 2014