adapted by Marcelo Dos Santos with Annabel Arden, Louise Young, Mike Kenny and the Company from the novels by Zizou Corder.
Tour to 21 July 2013.
Runs 2hr One interval.
Review: Stewart McGill 30 May at Bristol Old Vic.
A family show that does not patronise its audience or go for simple solutions.
The big question surrounding Complicite’s stage adaptation, for 8+, of Zizou Corder’s expansive children’s story was always going to be: how could the vast and sweeping landscapes be conveyed to give a sense of 11-year-old Charlie Ashanti’s journey? (At one point in the evolution of Lionboy, Steven Spielberg was in line to direct a big screen version.)
Complicite place their storytelling cards on the table from the outset – we are storytellers, they announce along with their names and role names, this is our telling of Lionboy. What follows is not a groundbreaking new direction for children’s theatre as with War Horse. We get a very imaginative, multi-role, simple and direct transmission of the story.
Annabel Arden, co-founder of Complicite, returns to direct and brings their now familiar yet always imaginative physical style to the adventure that crosses countries and continents. How to deal with the floating circus, the wonder of the world?
For me, this was where Complicite’s adaptation was weakest – the permanent environment by Jon Bauser had to work for every location. The ship-based circus really didn’t convey the vast wonder world Charlie encounters. In the book the superficial glamour, the size, sights and sounds immerse the audience in a world that exists in the furthest recess of the imagination, Complicite’s circus is reduced to a tumble and a token aerialist.
However, the playing of the Lion by Adetomiwa Edun as a multi personality of Charlie is beautifully done, as is the parade of eccentric, disturbing characters emerging as Charlie searches for his kidnapped parents. Adrian Lester and Emma Thompson’s voices inventively bring the parents into the story.
The laboratory scenes are genuinely chilling, Tim Mascall’s lighting conveying the darker, terrifying elements of Charlie’s quest. Complicite create a piece of theatre that can be enjoyed by everyone. bringing the honesty and intellect of creation to the stage.
Complicite after thirty years move into children’s theatre with confidence, experimentation and a determination to enable all of us to feel confident enough to leave the theatre able to create our own version of the story. That’s essentially what good storytelling is.
Charlie Ashanti: Adetomiwa Edun.
Maccomo: Femi Elufowoju Jr.
Rafi Sadler: Robert Gilbert.
Chief Executive/Madame Barbue: Victoria Gould.
Pirouette/Ninu: Lisa Kerr.
Sergei/Hercule: Clive Mendus.
Mr Ubsworth/Major Tib/King Boris: Dan Milne.
Music/Percussion: Stephen Hiscock.
Director: Annabel Arden.
Designers: Jon Bausor, Jean Chan.
Lighting: Tim Mascall.
Sound: Tom Gibbons.
Movement: Clive Mendus, Kasia Zaremba-Byrne.
Assistant director: Rosalind Parker.
Associate sound: Pete Malkin.
Creative associate: Annie Castledine.