Review: Disney’s The Lion King, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Thomas Howells reviews the stage adaptation of the Disney classic, The Lion King at Wales Millennium Centre.

The stage adaptation of The Lion King, which arrived at Wales Millennium Centre on Tuesday evening, offers a new and interesting portrayal of the beloved Disney film. With focus on the beautiful nature of African culture, I personally found this a great improvement on the film.

The Lion King features a lot of symbolism, especially how the cultural elements are worked in. While the Hyena’s are linked with villainy and disconnected from the culture, there is an element of rekindling a link with personal heritage as we see with Simba.

Richard Hudson’s minimalistic set design is beautiful and blends well with the puppets, costumes, and lighting. I also love how the actors interact with the set. Moreover, Donald Holder’s lighting including the iconic scenes of sunrise and set were the most beautiful things I have ever seen on stage.

One of the most praised elements of The Lion King is the puppetry and this is completely deserved. Julie Taymor and Michael Curry’s designs are both grand and entertaining, while the puppetry is used in many incredible ways making the transition of film animation to stage presentation smooth.

Julie Taymor’s costume designs are cultural, colourful and very beautiful. One of my favourite examples being Rafiki and Zazu who had their fun personalities portrayed perfectly through what they wore.

I found the masks worn by many of the characters were striking, creating a sense of intensity and powerfulness as they hung over the performers faces, connecting brilliantly with the characters of the lions. 

Rafiki who is portrayed by Thandazile Soni appears heavily as a religious leader of sorts and is very funny throughout. I found the character to be cool and how Soni portrays Rafiki really lights up the stage, making his performance super enjoyable for the audience.

Matthew Forbes’ Zazu was incredible and possibly my favourite character. I adored the separation of the puppet and the person. I thought moving the colour from the bird to the puppeteer was a great decision. Then also the interactions between puppet and puppeteer were hilarious and worked so well without diminishing the character we’ve grown to love.

It would be a mistake not to mention the Jean-Luc Guizonne in his portrayal of incredible Mufasa that I loved so much, while the character of Scar was given a commanding portrayal by Richard Hurst. The depictions of Nala and Simba by Nokwanda Khuzwayo and Stephenson Ardern-Sodje were also perfect. Moreover though, every child actor starring as young Nala and young Simba deserve infinite praise as this presentation of The Lion King is nothing short of stars.

Julie Taymor’s direction of The Lion King is perfection. The combination of incredible music, beautiful choreography, gorgeous sets, and excellent acting is exactly what theatre is about. I think the best way to describe this show is certainly just that it is theatre. I really enjoyed it and strongly recommend it to anybody – if you’ve seen the film or not, you will adore The Lion King!

Published by Thomas Howells

The doctor said I should be in hospital for all the blood I was losing, but instead I went to drama practice

One thought on “Review: Disney’s The Lion King, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

  1. Lion King is the best show to hit Cardiff in many years. Every aspect of the production is beautifully presented. Faultless!! If you can get a ticket DO see it. It’s wonderful.

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