“Hakuna Matata!” There were no worries when watching Hungerford Primary School’s slick production of The Lion King Jnr.
From the start, when Rafiki (Ronnie Money and Mikarna Kannan) filled the hall with their haunting and powerful Zulu chant, the audience knew they were in for a memorable night. Against the beautiful African grasslands backdrop, an elephant, gazelles, giraffes, zebras and birds appeared and a wonderfully fussy Zazu (Harry Lardner) swooped in followed by a procession of proud lionesses.
The final entrants were a stately Mufasa (George Gale) and his queen, Sarabi (Sophia Hodge) cradling the new-born Simba. As in the iconic Disney classic film, Rafiki lifted the young cub high on Pride Rock, as the powerful opening number, The Circle of Life came to a dramatic close.
Young Simba (Amilia Dornan) and Young Nala, his childhood playmate (Scarlett Pugh) filled the stage with their energy and enthusiasm bouncing amongst the full cast in I Just Can’t Wait To Be King. Harvey Coles, as the evil, scheming Sca’ turned in a masterful performance with his slow, menacing dialogue.
He was ably supported by three hyenas Shenzi (Molly Taylor), Banzai (Zac Devlin) and Ed (Tori McDonald) Ghoulish grins and helpless laughter meant this leather jacket-clad trio were soon audience favourites. Other hyenas slunk in menacingly to complete Scar’s ‘slobbering, mangy’ crew. Grassland dancers brought grace and an air of mysticism to the Prideland scenes, moving silently yet effectively as Mufasa instructed his young heir on the ways of a king He Lives in You.
The stampede was effective with anonymous wildebeest moving behind flat masks that pulsed rhythmically to the ominous soundtrack. Scar towered over his brother in a convincing murder scene that left Mufasa sprawled lifeless on stage. As Act One drew to a close two confused vultures (Marley Rowland and Stanley Jones) prompted audience giggles and participation as they encountered the lifeless Simba in the desert and considered whether to eat him or not.
Young Simba, now an outcast, was befriended by the hapless Pumbaa (Aidan Flanagan) and his long-suffering sidekick Timon (Libbie Croft), who burst onto the stage in a wonderful riot of comic movement and timing. Joined by a jungle of singing palm trees – two of which staged limelight-stealing cameos in coconut bras, lipstick and grass skirts (Ollie Lesniak and Sean Atas) – Timon and Pumbaa instructed the lion cub in their rule for life, ‘Hakuna Matata’.
The older Nala (Kerensa Head) performed in the second half, speaking clearly and bringing emotion to the role. Her mother Sarafina (Isabel Currel) portrayed her character with depth and poise.
Classmates who played drums, and a technical crew who controlled lighting, sound, special effects and moved scenery and props on stage, ably supported the cast.
Head Teacher, David Mayer, praised the support given to Year six from across the school and congratulated the young performers on the success they had achieved and the wonderful memories they had created during The Lion King Jnr.
Parents took to social media to praise the Year 6 production and the staff who worked tirelessly behind the scenes: Chris Godfrey, Jo Popperwell, Michelle Benton and Dani Winslet.
“What an impressive group of Year 6 pupils you have … one could see the pleasure experienced by performers and audience alike, and the special memories generated…certainly the highlight of my week.”
Head of West Berkshire Education Service
It was a joy to see all the actors fully committed to their roles and enjoying themselves…There was so much talent on that stage.”