Review of The Lion King


Adam Mills

As a former pupil of William Ransom, I know what it feels like to be stood at the top of the stairs, with

the hall a deathly quiet before the lights burn bright upon the stage and the music kicks in. I know

what it feels like to be walking towards the bottom of the stairs, wondering if you’re going to

remember your lines, the songs, the choreography, and make sure that it all looks completely

effortless. I know what it’s like to spend month after month learning line after line, day after day. Yet

this year, there was something entirely different.

With Disney recognising the theatrical ability within the school and offering the chance to perform The Lion

King, there was a step up to be made. For this year, there was an unfound responsibility bestowed upon the

school; one that had the potential to destroy everything that had gone before in the 31 years a summer

production has been running, or allow the school to reap the rewards, and become the absolute pinnacle of

William Ransom drama productions. And it was most definitely the latter.

What was seen on stage over three sweltering evenings in July speaks volumes of the school: no task is too

big; there’s a hell of a lot of talent bred through the years; and there’s a team backstage that come to the

rescue whenever called for.

What started as a phone call six months ago became a mammoth task of getting it right. Mrs Driver

approached her team, and began to piece together a show on a scale never before seen on that wooden

stage. From speaking to Mrs Mackilligan and Miss Ayliffe about how best to produce the show, to requesting

costumes with Mrs Grundon, Mrs Wagstaffe and Mrs Burr, to sorting scenery with Miss Eldridge, music with

Mr Farrington and sorting ticketing with Mrs Massey and Mrs Hopcraft… The list of jobs that needed

undertaking was endless, but with parent help and more hands on deck than any production has seen, it got


But without the children, the efforts of staff and parents would have been entirely unfruitful. This year, more

than any, there was a complete glut of stage talent. Whilst there are too many names to mention here (check

your programmes for just how many!), there were some outstanding performances seen throughout the

week, in particular those from Martha Reilly, as Rafiki, and Omar Ettienne-Tyson & Jean-Claude Aka, both as

Simba. Having said that, every child with a lead role completely excelled in their given part, and whilst many

are moving on to pastures new, those that are with William Ransom a few more years, like Sophia Leete and

Craig Rafferty, have a big future, both on a school stage and beyond.

However, there isn’t just sixteen children in lead roles involved. The magic of The Lion King comes from the

scale of the production, and with the number of children becoming giraffes, zebras, elephants, cheetahs,

antelopes, leopards, lions, hyenas, wildebeests, and the all-important grasslands, the box was ticked and the

show was complete. Those that saw it will agree with me – it’s not just how big and sparkly a production can

be, but how much the children enjoy it, and with the number of smiles seen throughout, we can firmly agree

that goal was met, too.

There’s a fine line between dedication and obsession, but each and every member of the team that

created The Lion King crossed it time and time again. Putting on a production with 140 children all so excited

to get on the stage takes a lot of time and effort, and whilst not every job is pleasant, and whilst some are

laborious beyond belief, they need to be done.

Whether it involves the normal jobs of bucket duty, sound mixing, and getting every child in their place, in the

right costume, at the right time, or the slightly more strange jobs we saw this year, with trailing mic leads,

fused stage lights, and fainting parents, there was always someone on hand to get it sorted quickly and

efficiently. The sheer fact that members of staff and those involved behind the scenes volunteer to do so to

make sure things run as they should shows just how dedicated a team the school have at their disposal. And

that’s something very special.

To me, what singles out William Ransom as the best school in the land is something very simple, yet

completely unheard of in a primary school: fearlessness. No task is too big, as this proves unequivocally.

What The Lion King represents isn’t just that there are some very talented children with bright futures ahead,

nor that there are artistic parents, teachers that work tirelessly, or musicians that are willing to give up their

time for free, but that at William Ransom, no-one is left alone. The greatest triumph that has appeared from

this summer is the team of pupils, parents and teachers that have come together in unity to put this show