Review-Lionboy-Hong Kong Arts Festival


By: Leeann Bennett


The trouble with family friendly shows is that often as a parent you are consigned to having to endure patronizing messages wrapped in stories. They're full of plot holes and one dimensional characters, sugar coated with psychedelic colours, blinding colours and chipmunk music. What is pleasant is when people who actually know what children are like, create stories and shows that children will actually enjoy.


Lionboy is just one of those shows. It’s based on a trilogy written by Zizou Corder. who turns out to be Louisa Young and her daughter Isabel Adomakoh Young, (written when her daughter was actually a child). It’s the story of a boy who can talk to cats; all kinds of cats from the small domesticated variety. to lions. Charlie Ashanti is the son of scientists and when his parents are kidnapped by an evil corporation, he has to use his talent, wits and courage to rescue both his parents and the animal friends he makes along the way. From his home in England, he’s pursued to London, Paris and to Morocco. He’ll make his journey by boat, with a circus, on a train and a flying balloon. He meets all sorts of interesting characters including the King of Bulgaria before he completes his journey. 


This was not a simple story and yet it was delivered using simple tools and props. There was no elaborate stage, no intricate backdrops, no detailed costumes and yet it was utterly engrossing. You couldn’t take your eyes away from the stage which says something about the many talents that were behind this show. Each of the eight actors from Complicite played multiple roles with many costume changes and each one was committed to the roles. They made you believe (with a healthy dose of sound effects) that they were cats, lions and that they were on boats, trains or in the circus. They made you believe with a special kind of magic.


It can be hard in this day and age of iPads and pop stars to engage and enchant children in a world obsessed with test results. We forget that kids need to dream and to think about the world. Here is a story that covers deep abiding issues about power and freedom, whether the ends justifies the means; being different. All of these meanings are packaged in an enchanting tale about a boy who can talk to lions and delivered by a talented ensemble cast of amazing actors, one of whom is also a mathematician. I also want to give a particular shout out to Stephen Hiscock, the percussionist. The drumming often sent shivers down my spine and having live music played right there on stage was one of my favourite things of the whole show. 


This is a story that both thrills and delights. The children in the audience laughed, gasped, cheered and I’m sure some of them cried as the story unfolded. I found myself to be sitting next to a well behaved young boy and his mother and could hear as his mother quietly explained  something he didn't follow. She held him when he expressed concern and cheered with him when he cheered. I also heard her explain that the director was right up there on the stage, something he seemed to find impressive. At the end of the performance, when the mother explained that people get up to cheer when the show is especially good, the boy stood up and cheered wholeheartedly as did many others in the audience. This, I think, is proof enough that this show is a hit with kids and I’ll attest that as an adult, I enjoyed it also. 


Tickets range from $160-420; if you have young children I highly recommend that you take them and any other children you can scrounge up, short of actual kidnapping. As someone who’s had plenty of experience with little children, I wish there were more shows like this. 

Lionboy is playing through March 1st. For more information, click here.



Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 3.0


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