Lionboy’s back to help kids challenge the status quo

Lionboy by Complicite

Lionboy by Complicite - Credit: Photo by Mark Douet

A cocktail of innovative storytelling, circus and live percussion, the stage adaptation of Zizou Corder’s Lionboy is coming to Kilburn’s Tricycle Theatre this month as it prepares for an ambitious world tour.

Having drawn critical acclaim during its debut run earlier this year, the show is based around Corder’s popular series of young adult novels, which follow young adventurer Charlie Ashanti as he seeks to free his parents from the clutches of an evil corporation in a dystopian future – chiefly through the use of his unusual ability to talk to cats (and some very big circus ones at that).

The show’s original success was due to the adaptation by award-winning theatre company Complicite, who brought their groundbreaking approach to highly visual, physical theatre to a children’s show for the first time.

Martins Imhangbe, who plays Charlie, believes such techniques are perfectly suited to the narrative.

“It’s a huge joy to be in the process and working with Complicite because they’re very physical and imaginative in the way they work, so it’s very thrilling. And it really complements our show, because it’s quite bare in terms of the set, so we have to use our imaginations a lot to paint the story for the audience.”

Tackling as it does the politics of a world where companies are bigger than countries, it’s a powerful concept for the play’s target audience of young adults to grasp.

Imhangbe, 23, says it is encouraging to know children have felt excited by these ideas and hopefully it can spur them on to change their own world for the better.

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“I think what’s really strong for me doing this play is that it invites the audience to questions things, especially at that young age. When you’re that age, you get told a lot of things or fed a lot of things through the media and you just accept it and take it as gospel.

“But this play allows you to question things and ask, ‘Why’s this this way? Why do people do this?’ Hopefully it empowers young people to make a difference or to challenge things, to stand up for what is right and what they believe in.”

Demand for the show has seen plans made for a world tour, which will include dates in New York, Hong Kong and South Korea. Considering Imhangbe, a New Cross resident, only graduated from Central School of Speech and Drama last year, it marks a tremendous break for not just the show, but himself personally.

“I’ve never done this before, so I’m very excited to experience it for the first time,” he adds. “I’ve never been to any of these places so it’s nice to be able to not just go there, but go there to do what I love, which is acting.”

Lionboy runs at the Tricycle Theatre from this Wednesday until January 10. Visit

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