“The Circle of Life”, is a phrase we can all connect with, a philosophy such as “Hakuna Matata” that we can all relate too, even though not always reachable. The arrival of the musical version of “The Lion King” to the Edinburgh Playhouse this year has been a much anticipated guest north of the border. Its cultural influences on the Scottish audience is awe-inspiring as music, costume, plot and art come together in an invigorating piece of theatre for all ages, now Broadway’s fifth longest running play in history.
One of the most emotionally diverse characters of the play is that of Mufasa, father of central character Simba, King of Pride Rock and ruler of the Pridelands. This marvellous character is portrayed as the fearless, brave monarch of the Savannah as well as the wise, philosophical, caring father of the young Prince. Julie Taymor’s creative supremacy in the characters costume sets out these traits undoubtedly, as one of the first characters in which she designed for the show.
The Lion Mask is the most distinctive feature of the costume, obviously portraying him as an animal, but sitting on top of his head like a crown; creating height and portraying him as a God, with his mane symbolising the Sun, the centre of the universe and The Circle Of Life. The rest of the costume is based on traditional Maasai warrior dress, reminding the audience of the cultural significance and origin of the story, and re-enforcing the characters fighting personality, not only as a warrior and solider but illustrating the struggle of life.
The character’s walk highlights the strength, influence and power of his position; a stalking swagger which is intimidating, confident but slightly over zealous, and reminds the audience of a local gang lord, moving around his territory, emphasising almost a tyrannical contribution from the king, rather than that of a fair diplomatic free-thinker.
The Stampede Scene in which Simba finds himself in a terminal dilemma, caused by his evil, scheming uncle Scar, in his attempt to raise himself to the throne, touches the hearts of fathers and sons across the audience. Mufasa’s selfless attempt at rescuing his son is deeply instinctive and can be witnessed across the animal and human kingdoms alike. Both Mufasa’s fearless, brave demeanour and his unconditional love for his son crashes through, placing the wise, free-thinking King in a locked drawer somewhere in the den. This consequently results in the death of the character and the audience feel the mourning and guilt of his young son, as he tries to come to terms with the passing of his role model, protector, and teacher.
The entire production is awash with symbolism and an analytical approach can reveal a host of various underlying meanings and plots from relationships, social position, discrimination, politics, and philosophy; all with sub categories and meanings which the audience may relate to on a more intellectual level rather than a personal one.
A highly energised, entertaining and cultural experience that everyone must experience at least once!
“The Lion King” is on at The Edinburgh Playhouse until January 2014. Tickets available now.