Telling the story of Joy (Selina Boyack) and George Adamson (Keith Fleming), Lion Lion is a 50-minute piece of thought-provoking theatre. It is compelling and benefits from excellent acting, although I would not recommend it to anyone looking to lift their spirits.
As with any of Traverse Theatre’s ‘Play, Pie, Pint’ pieces, the atmosphere in Lion Lion was strongly conveyed. The use of sound effects constantly reminded the audience that the lions themselves were always right around the corner, unnerving us as much as it did the characters. Using red and orange lighting effectively underscores this idea of looming danger, while at the same time providing visual information on the Serengeti and its surroundings. However, I did feel that the atmosphere was dependent on sound to create atmosphere, moreso than enhanced by it. The characters were somewhat separate from the world around them. While this highlights the play’s main ideas well, it did detract from the creation of atmosphere.
I personally very much enjoyed the implicit storytelling. Many details surrounding characters’ backstories, as well as their true feelings, are not revealed directly. This makes it doubly worth the while to pay close attention to everything the characters say and do. While I do wish there were more clarity regarding what happened to the lion Elsa, I appreciate the fact that we meet her indirectly through the words of Joy and George. This type of storytelling draws the audience in and rewards the listeners for their patience; Glover’s script serves this purpose very well.
Something I was not expecting was to enjoy a play in which I have limited sympathy for two of the three characters. Despite Boyack’s nuanced and emotional delivery of Joy’s story in a monologue directed at Elsa, I had trouble feeling sorry for her as this occurred moments after we witness her verbally abuse Makedde (Nick Ikunda), who was only trying to warn her about an ambush. It is uncommon to see female characters that are unapologetically unlikable without being flat; Joy strikes this balance, and therefore intrigues me. This speaks volumes to both the writing of the script and the skill with which Boyack portrays her. George was a very different character, whose unlikability for me stemmed from his constant self-pity. Nonetheless, Fleming delivers an excellent performance, and brings intrigue to his character.
Makedde was the one character I did sympathise with. Ikunda’s portrayal was multi-layered and subtle in the best of ways. Even from the second row, I could easily read the expression from his eyes. This really impressed me.
The play ended on a rather uncertain note. I was left feeling as though it was a small part of something much larger, and while I did enjoy the density and depth of the story, I also felt that it would have benefitted from being made a little longer. There is no inherent problem with leaving the audience with some unanswered questions, but Lion Lion touches on enough deeper issues that it did not need to rely on untied threads to provoke thought in the audience.
PHOTOS: Traverse Theatre