The Lion King, The Playhouse

Review in Issue 12-4 | Winter 2000

The first carnivalesque procession of animals through the auditorium signals that this is more a theatre event than a musical. And that sense of carnival is what makes The Lion King so special. For although the story fails to engage on more than a superficial level, and the music suffers from blandness (despite the impact of Libo Em’s additions to the original score), the spectacle works on multiple and magical levels. Julie Taymor’s design is what draws us in a highly imaginative concoction of masks and puppetry, optical illusion and vivid colours.

Taymor embodies artistic and cultural cross-pollination, having trained with Lecoq and in Indonesia, and worked in film and opera. The choreography blends contemporary dance with ballet and afro-Caribbean dance, working alongside actors whom Taymor has trained to animate her inspired puppet creations. Some of the effects made by exploiting the illusion of scale are simply stunning, and the way in which the audience’s imaginations are invoked in creating landscapes and vistas, birds and animals, makes for a spellbinding experience. There is wit and integrity in the performances too, particularly Josette Bushell-Mingo, whose Shaman-like character has been developed especially by Taymor for the stage version of this Disney cartoon.

Of course the blandness of Disneyfied pseudo-myth is the platform on which the show is built, but in design terms this is a production which challenges the notion that commercial theatre ignores radical theatrical ideas. If you can get hold of a ticket, go see it.

Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Aug 2000

This article in the magazine

Issue 12-4
p. 27