cast of king of tinga tinga

How Lion Became King of Tinga Tinga Land

Birmingham Town Hall

****

THERE is something intrinsically joyous about much of the rhythmical music of Africa so the opening number of this delightful children’s production sets a happy mood from the outset.

Indeed it was a pity that in a story supposedly set in Africa the first song was the only one with African origins; perhaps another in the middle and one at the end would not have gone amiss, but then that is an adult speaking and in shows like this adults are merely taxi drivers, toilet takers and ice cream providers.

So the real critics are the children, and my almost five-year-old grandson enjoyed it immensely and, as this was his 23rd different theatre show – including the RSC and BRB -, he does know what he is talking about by now.

The story is simple; a wise old toucan Banjoko, a puppet operated by Hannah Farquharson nailing her first professional role on the head incidentally, has flown from South America to warn the animals of Africa about the impending dangers of habitat destruction by the ever increasing encroachment of man.

Of course it is put in simpler terms than that but that is the message nevertheless. Banjoko needs to give the message to the king of the animals in Africa – the only problem is that the animals just don’t have a king.

So Banjoko meets with a happy little monkey Maliki (Maria Yarjah), a rather regal giraffe called Gowon (Melone M’Kenzy) and a life and soul of the jungle zebra called Zalikalion and toucan (Jeremy Cave) and finally the grumpy old lion Lutalo who has no interest whasoever in being king and indeed little interest in the other animals.

Indeed Lutalo’s major interest appeared to be sleeping during the day and he got ever so grumpy if anyone disturbed him – which was usually Zalika - until a maurading pack of hyenas arrived and were seen off by the lion, and monkey, after a battle royal. Hyenas really do need to employ a PR expert to counter their bad Press.

Banjoko and Lutalo

Lutalo is played by Declan Wilson who has quite beautiful articulation, every syllable clear as a bell.

After that Banjoko helps the animals chose teir king and, reluctantly, Lutalo, becomes the new king with the task of protecting the animals and their lands.

Written and directed by Iain Lauchlan – creator of Tweenies and a panto legend as dame, writer and director at Coventry Belgrade incidentally – the show follows a simple formula with each new creature arriving with its own simple tale and a song with actions which the children need little encouragement to join in.

Songs such as Five little monkeys bouncing on a bed, If you are happy and you know it and so on, with plenty of actions seemed to work from the noise and the healthy number of small hands – and quite a few larger ones from parents and grandparents – waving about or clapping in unison – more or less.

The stage used a large video screen framed at the back of a simple set, designed Morna Macpherson who also designed the head dresses to go with Linzi Potter’s costumes which were bright, colourful and represented the animals they portrayed well in a sort if Lion King lite way.

One got the feeling that perhaps the environmental message might have struggled to make much of an impression on younger audience members – the scale of Amazonian rainforests and their destruction perhaps beyond their comprehension. How do you explain to a small child that an area of forest the size of England and Wales is cleared and lost every year? How do you explain how big England and Wales is for that matter?

But if the message is stored somewhere in the unconscious and nudges its way into life sometime in the future then the show has done its conservational duty. As for its other role, perhaps the more important one, of nurturing the next generation of theatre goers, the test is not what mere critics think, we are already steeped in theatre, but the children.

I thought it was a good production for children – but I don’t count as much as the children it was aimed at and they seemed to agree from the happy smiling faces, chattering and the wild and wonderful descriptions they were giving to parents as they left (not always the most accurate).

A simple show, with a colourful set and costumes and a good story with a message older children might take on board. It is aimed at 3-11 year olds, incidentally. There is plenty of singalongs, actions and participation, nothing to frighten the horses and lots of bright colourful fun in a show that skips along nicely never giving children time to lose interest. To 02-04-16

Roger Clarke

01-04-16

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