This show is a charm. Delicately crafted to appeal to pre-school kids, as well as older children, it never patronises and amongst all the puppets and marionettes and songs and hats and delightful settings and coloured lights and beautiful jazzy rhythms there is never a sense that the (mostly) young audience is being talked down to. And when you’re prepared to use a long word like Serengeti in your script, never worrying that 2 – 3-year-olds might not understand it, we know we have a writer and production team that understand how best to relate to kids.
Peter Glanville has adapted How To Hide A Lion from the best selling book by Helen Stephen and Glanville also directs the show with tender care, great attention to detail and a wonderful sense of what appeals to young audiences. The lively songs and jazzy rhythms are provided by acclaimed jazz and cabaret artist Barb Jungr.
The show opens in a hat shop and the two performers come into the audience as a preamble to chat to the young audience and to measure heads: I’m certain you are agog to know that my head came out at a respectable 22 inches – not too big I am sure you’ll agree. The performers introduce themselves as Hattie (Stephanie de Whalley) and Horace (Gilbert Taylor) and reveal a couple of brief stories behind some of the variety of headwear on display. We then cut to the chase of the main event – the story of the Lion.
The show channels the Androcles tale here as a lion with a sore paw is running fairly gently amok in a town with lots of interesting characters like the Butcher, the Sweeper, the Mayor and the semi-professional lady Opera Singer. A young girl, Iris, comes across the wounded lion, soothes his paw, befriends him, and takes him home to hide in her bedroom. As you do. All these characters are personified through marionettes and puppets that de
Whalley and Taylor manipulate with deft expertise and no little panache. They also provide all the voices flitting from gruffy roars, to little girls, to Dick van Dyke-esque robbers, at the drop of a hat, so to speak.
They also sing the songs – very hummable ditties that complement and advance the action – and the real allure of the piece is how easily the dialogue and the songs and the puppets all meld together seamlessly and with a
natural spontaneity. The two troubadours, de Whalley and Taylor, have evident affection for the script and are outstanding in a completely understated way without ever resorting to the OTT antics of many performers when playing to children. The lovely inventive set is designed by Laura McEwen enhanced with a subtly creative lighting design by Will Evans. The host of beautifully crafted puppets, which give the show such a mesmeric atmosphere, are designed by Samuel Wyler.
How To Hide A Lion is an absolute delight and I highly recommend that young people, and all those of you who are young at heart, should catch this show on its extensive national tour. It has a sensible run-time of 50 minutes but, of course, one should remember that the show isn’t over until the metabolism-challenged semi-professional Opera Singer has exclaimed that the golden candlestick has been nicked.
Review by Peter Yates
Having first roared into life at Polka Theatre and Oxford Playhouse in 2016, Helen Stephen’s much-loved children’s story How to Hide a Lion will now embark on its first national tour, enchanting young audiences around the UK. Adapted and directed by Peter Glanville, this magical play features dazzling puppets and lively jazz by acclaimed jazz and cabaret artist Barb Jungr.
With playful humour and lots of roars, How to Hide a Lion tells the story of Iris, a little girl who develops an unexpected friendship with a lion. When the lion is chased out of town, Iris helps him to find somewhere to hide. Join Iris on her mission to squash her new friend into a variety of sneaky tight spots, as the misinformed town folk try to track him down. Adapted from Helen Stephen’s award-winning first book, which has now been sold in fourteen languages worldwide, the central character of Iris is lovingly based on Stephen’s own daughter.
How to Hide a Lion
Running time 50 minutes
Twitter @polkatheatre, @pigtailspro, @OxfordPlayhouse, #HowToHideALion
Check out Tour Dates
Age recommendation 3+
Director and Adaptor Peter Glanville
Composer Barb Jungr
Set Designer Laura McEwen
Puppet Designer Samuel Wyer
Lighting Designer Will Evans
Performers Stephanie De Whalley and Gilbert Taylor
Sat 8th – Sat 15th Sept New Wimbledon Theatre
The Broadway, Wimbledon, London SW19 1QG