The Butterfly Lion

Michael Morpurgo’s children’s classic ‘The Butterfly Lion’ comes to Theatre Royal this week.


From the African plains to the battle fields of WW1, ‘The Butterfly Lion’ tells the story of young Bertie’s friendship with an orphaned white lion cub. Sounds pretty unrealistic, right? This is a beautiful story of how an unlikely friendship can stand the test of time.

Some of the better puppets

Off to Africa in The Butterfly Lion

The story spans approximately 80 years and with a small cast and no child actors, there were times when Adam Buchanan flitted between an 8 year old Bertie in the early 1900s to a 10 year old Michael in the present to a grown man fighting in WW1. It did get a tad confusing because Buchanan’s portrayal of a child was sometimes too subtle. At times, the lines between the different characters became blurred.

Gwen Taylor (Millie), however, excelled in her role. She successfully made the transition between an innocent young girl to flirty teen to wise old age. Taylor was also the best storyteller and she was the one that captured the audience’s imagination with her effortless enthusiasm.

Gwen Taylor (she's been in Corrie) with Adam Buchanan

Gwen Taylor (she’s been in Corrie) with Adam Buchanan

So what about the lion? If you’ve seen Morpurgo’s War Horse, you might be left a little deflated by the puppetry. Whilst the butterflies are beautiful, the cuddly toys and model animals let it down. And the accompanying narration is a little bewildering.

That said,Lloyd Notice, who manned the lion, did a fantastic job at giving the shaggy white lion a loveable spirit.

The loveable lion

The loveable lion

The second half redeemed the whole production. It was far funnier than the first and had the audience chuckling and sniggering away as the performance picked up pace. It came to a heart-warming and magical end.

The Butterfly Lion is on at Theatre Royal until Saturday, student tickets from £14. Book here.

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