Based on the children's book by Helen Stephens, How to Hide a Lion tells the story of young Iris who befriends an escaped lion and struggles to convince her family that her new four-pawed pal can be trusted. At the same time, Iris's hometown – boring old Middle Town – is in lockdown, knowing that a wild and dangerous animal is on the loose.
This is a truly charming production that goes above and beyond to really ignite the imagination and create something you simply can't get from television or film. Before the show even starts the two performers, Phil Yarrow and Clare Rebekah Pointing, immediately connect with their young audience, mingling amidst the children and welcoming them into their world – a hat shop, from where the story is told. Then, using puppets, fabulous little sets and props, as well as pitch-perfect songs and music, they act out the events at a pace just right for little ones (my three-year-old sat happily still, silent and engaged the whole way through – result!).
Obviously, with a target audience aged 3-6, the plot isn't overly complicated, but the way in which it is presented is quite a feat. Yarrow and Pointing execute a mesmerising number of tasks to bring the characters to life and create an ever-changing and multi-dimensional set that comprises numerous backdrops, props, lighting effects and countless little touches that make this show extra special. With young children you can understand that the temptation might be to blast them with everything and anything all at once, but none of the 'extras' in How to Hide a Lion are in any way tacky or gratuitous.
There is also a good moral to the story presented: that not all lions are dangerous – some can in fact be very good and helpful. Of course, the lion can represent whatever you want, but for children, I suspect the lion will remain a lion. That's the beauty of children's theatre: you don't expect impressive twist-filled storylines or some kind of intellectual, moral revelation, you just want to leave knowing your little one has enjoyed something simple, decent and innocent. How to Hide a Lion is just that: a sweet treat.