Lion King puppetry

We love to count the sleeps in our house!  The latest big event was a trip to theatre to see The Lion King.  I’ve been wanting to take the boys for ages and so decided to organise a ‘school trip’ to make  it more affordable.  Home Educated groups get the same rates as schools, so it’s always worth looking into if you feel up to the organisation.  Lion King is a brilliant show.  Both boys loved it.  The staging, lighting and of course the puppetry are stunning, with sometimes relatively simple ideas being executed for spectacular visual effects.  I think the boys were struck by this more than anything.  There is no trying to disguise the fact that people are on stage, ‘being’ the animals, the billowing blue fabric to depict water, the dancers with green ‘spikes’ to suggest the grass, all helped bring the theatre to life for them.

Of course, no immersion into fiction would be the same without C wanting to ‘be‘ one of the characters for the next few days (this week he has mostly been a frustrated storm trooper) but this time it was slightly different.  I had downloaded the theatre education pack and so, rather than the usual search for clothing to become a character, he busied himself making puppets and scenery, using the worksheets as starting points.  Both boys got completely immersed in this and spent the best part of two days preparing and rehearsing their own version of the production.  L explored shadow puppets, as well as sequencing and story telling, while C threw himself into the most amazing detailed artwork.


We explored lighting effects and attempted to recreate the sun rise.  C cut up strips of green paper to suspend from the top of his theatre to re create certain scenes, and I got terrible back ache from having to sit for nearly an hour during his rehearsal of Act 1, followed by 2 hours of theatre later in the evening as he performed for me and Daddy!  His production was only around 50 minutes, the remainder of that time was spent on scene changes, puppet balancing, and lighting adjustments.  It was lovely. Another one of those ‘I’m lucky to be part of this learning’ moments. Although apparently ‘not learning’ according to him.  Not learning, just creative thinking, self directed activities, story telling, organisation, sustained concentration, perseverance, resilience, close observational art, the science behind shadow puppets, script writing, singing…


Prior to the show, we had done a little sightseeing and the boys bought themselves some special leather note books.  It seemed only right to christen these, so, much to the embarrassment of our friends, I decided to introduce C to the stage door experience!  Here he is meeting a zebra and a bird man…

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They couldn’t have been friendlier, nor the stage door lady any kinder.  She took Connor’s book in to get some autographs and assures him that the picture he had done for them is now displayed in the cast dressing room.  He’s more than happy with that!

I also learnt something new about London theatre.  As part of the group preparation I discovered that there is such a thing as Autism friendly performances, sometimes referred to as relaxed performances.  Did you know this? The site has a link to a moving blog post about one family’s experience of this, and the impact it had.  The Lyceum theatre also produce a Visual story to help prepare children for the visit and what to expect.  This proved useful for some of our group.  It may be worth taking a look, I think it could easily be adapted for any theatre trip.

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