THE BUTTERFLY LION
by Michael Morpurgo adapted by Daniel Buckroyd.
Derby Theatre 15 Theatre Walk St Peter’s Quarter DE1 2NF To 8 June 2012.
10.15am 29 May.
1.30pm 29, 31 May, 5, 7 June.
2pm 2, 8 June.
7pm 28, 30, 31 May, 4-7 June.
7.30pm 1, 2, 8 June.
Audio-described 2 June 2pm, 6 June.
BSL Signed 2 June 2pm, 7 June 7pm.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.
TIKETS: 01332 593939.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 May.
Strong, clear theatrical storytelling.
Here’s a play for almost all the family. Some peer-conscious, streetwise teenagers might balk at its open emotion – who wants it known you’ve secretly sniffled at a story with animals? But for most over, say, five it’s a winner. And even the teens might take to it in a group, though obviously expressing surface disdain for some elements.
Still, the remote father and mother (not named individually) with whom Bertie grows up in Africa will be recognisable, as will the perfectly motherly Millie who shelters Michael in her large, gated house when he flees boarding school one day. It’s she who tells him about “my Bertie’s” African childhood, and the White Lion he takes as a pet (though it’s more the Lion adopting Bertie).
Daniel Buckroyd directs his own adaptation with a mix of reality and fantasy; how fitting that is only becomes fully apparent at the end. But the closeness of cub and boy, then the friendship of the tame puppet Lion as it stalks in full-grown pride, are at the story’s heart. Along with the human performances that make-up the central present day relationship.
Joe Jameson distinguishes between the upset Michael, and Bertie, a lone child in an earlier generation, finding joy in the leonine companion he attempts to protect. And Gwen Taylor brings an unforced sense of comfort and happiness to Millie’s memories of her late husband’s distant childhood.
As Millie’s answers to Michael’s keen questions often drive the story forward, the natural sympathy Taylor emanates sets the tone for the heart of the story, one that helps the boy reconcile himself with his life. It also connects with the mystical story elements – the White Lion carved in the nearby English countryside and its association with clouds of butterflies.
If the play is about coming to terms with life, it’s also about death and the natural term of life; the bright but evanescent butterflies supply one element of this, the longer-living Lion another.
Next year the production, originated on tour by New Perspectives, now enlarged at Leicester’ Curve and Derby Theatre, will tour again. Extensively, I hope.
Bertie’s Father: Robert Curtis.
Merlot: Msimisi Dlamini.
Basher: Christopher Hogben.
Michael/Bertie: Joe Jameson.
Bertie’s Mother: Sanchia McCormack.
Lion: Israel Oyelumade.
Millie: Gwen Taylor.
Director: Daniel Buckroyd.
Designer: Juliet Shillingford.
Lighting: Mark Dymock.
Sound: Adam McCready.
Composer: Carlton Edwards.
Movement: Matt Cullum.
Puppets: Sue Pyecroft.
Assistant director: Tilly Bransom.