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This review is from 'Lionboy's 2013 run at the Unicorn Theatre

Revered experimental theatre company Complicite knows no boundaries when it comes to the subjects of its shows – only last year it had a massive hit at the Barbican with a stage version of Mikhail Bulgakov’s so-called unstageable novel ‘The Master and Margarita’.

But in doing its first ever kids’ show, ‘Lionboy’, Complicte has imposed boundaries on itself, and the results are a little uneven.

Marcelo Dos Santos might have been better served adapting just the first book in Zizou Corder’s ‘Lionboy’ trilogy of young adult fantasy novels. Instead Complicite heroically wade in with a version of all three books about Charlie Ashanti, a boy who discovers he can communicate with cats. Mushed into a slender two hours, the epic narrative doesn’t get to breathe in the way it might in one of Complicte’s usual marathons (‘The Master…’ was nearly four hours).

Kids don’t mind about that sort of thing so much, but in trying to fit so much plot in, Dos Santos only fitfully remembers the really fun stuff. The young audience roared with approval when a character lobbed eels at them near the start. And at the end they erupted into excited shouts during the climactic showdown between Christopher and the evil corporate boss who had imprisoned his parents, which – in total deviation from the book – was stylised like a boxing match. In between, though, there’s more exposition than interaction.

That said, Complicite’s performers are the crème de la crème, energetic, charismatic and plain talented enough to command the audience’s attention throughout. Adetomiwa Edun is a blur of sinewy charm as Charlie, while Lisa Kerr is sweet, spiky and astonishingly acrobatic as a snarling circus performer and a multilingual lizard. A little disappointing for Complicite connoisseurs, but still an enjoyable afternoon for the kids. Ages 8+.

By Andrzej Lukowski

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