Lion King is Roaring Success As Lower School Pupils Steal the Show | Epsom College
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Lion King is Roaring Success As Lower School Pupils Steal the Show

This year's Lower School production was ambitious, streamlined and polished to perfection - a huge treat that saw off the year in style 

This motivated cast of Year 7 and Year 8 pupils included some sensational singers adding depth and richness to the many familiar songs. And what a glowing Pride they were! Olivia Dos Anjos Araujo performed a mature and robust Mufasa, leading the group and showing young Simba the way, until Axel Ottosson as the menacing Scar got in the way. Axel played him with charm and swagger against Finn Ferguson’s innocent Simba. Finn was excellent at offering a naivety that continued into the acting of Seb Smith who took over as the grown up Simba, adding a sense of fun and determination to the character. Indeed, the slickness in which the production moved time was perfectly acted by Finn and Seb, but also Jaiya Cathcart adeptly playing a bold Young Nala and Cece Isaac, with her sophisticated and powerful singing, who played the courageous grown-up version. This actor change was so naturally performed that although we noticed as an audience, we immediately accepted the change without question. A mark of true storytelling indeed.  

First-class acting

Alongside our key pride of lions, we had some first-class acting from the other animal characters. Oscar Buck gave us a sophisticated and layered performance as Zazu who acted with his voice but also through his well-manipulated puppet. Jessica Carter as Sarafina and Isabelle Hamon as Sarabi were the ultimate lioness leaders, and supported by the other striking lionesses, their regal body language carried through into their beautiful headdresses. 

Lila Unlu as Timon and Harry Sinnett as Pumba were the perfect comedy duo. As soon as they entered the stage, they oozed comedic charm. They absolutely knew how to work the audience and were an utter joy to watch. The sharpness of the comedy they delivered was a great production uplift.  

In addition, we had a great comic turn from the four hyaenas: Bea Curry, Freddie Fent, Freddy Garnham and Immy Griffith. They all performed with a paw in the comedy camp making the audience laugh, but easily turned threatening as the script demanded. They were a particularly effective team, blending their words but also creating a captivating vision with their mirrored body language and violent screeching laughter.  

The character of Rafiki is one of few words and much observation to begin with. Bringing weight to the role was Honor McGuinness. Her commanding stage presence made the audience notice her always, but it was in the opening and latter part of the show when we got the full power of her abilities. Her standout singing and confident acting showed the audience she will be one to watch in the future.  

Extraordinary fluency

Much importance is placed on movement in this production. The actors were often moving not only themselves but also handheld props that they must make ‘act’ too. Maintaining masks and headdresses in place for an entire show takes time and practice which the cast managed effortlessly. The collective ensemble, whether bird, wildebeest or elephant moved with such elegance and animal kingdom grace as they danced, strutted, leapt, and flew across the stage. This was encapsulated in the Spirit of Mufasa played by Abigail Hill. Abigail danced with such extraordinary fluency that it was simply bewitching. The large cast of animals around her, moving at different speeds with individual gestures created a beautiful harmony of music and movement, like a bush of ponya flowers coming into bloom in front of our eyes.  

The simplicity of the costumes enhanced the puppets, headdresses, and props, and alongside the stripped-back set, there was a cleanness that enhanced the production. Under the experienced guidance of Kieran Kerswell and Mark Bishop, the pupil Technical Team deftly managed the set and props, and perfectly executed the sophisticated lighting and sound which balanced the aesthetics of the crisp stage.  

As Director and Musical Director, Lara Jakes and Freddy Wickham achieved what few productions can: reach such a standard that the audience cannot disengage. This was one of them. Hardly a rustle, a movement or a whisper was heard. Partly the audience could barely believe such young talent before them, but also the progressive delivery was enchanting. The entire cast and crew left the audience in the best possible place: wanting more.