There is a confidence and sophistication in the way The Lion’s Den is written (by Harriet Chomley) and directed ( by Hannah Beach) that makes it feel like an established cult classic. The cast are flawless and the on-stage band (Layer by Layer Music) are accomplished musicians , who are used cleverly throughout to soundtrack key moments with their own compositions. I loved this show and would happily watch it again (and again).
Chomley is so playful with her writing. She is not afraid to lean into tropes and play with stereotypes, but in a way that brings warmth and familiarity to the piece. It is packed full of humour, and brilliantly plotted. Just when you think you know where it is going, something changes. There is a tonal shift for the final scene, as the message of the play is unequivocally delivered, which in lesser hands might jar, but here packs a gentle punch.
Beach’s direction embraces the playfulness of the piece, with the comedic elements beautifully choreographed throughout. The scene in which we first meet Quincy (played by Benjamin McCann, who also assistant directs) and Bourne (Zoe Aronson) is hilarious. The wonderful physicality of their arrival on stage as they try to sneak up on the Lion’s Den’s newest dancer Marsha (Ianthe Bathurst) is so much fun to watch. McCann and Aronson bring a delicious, mischievous energy to this pair of trouble makers.
The whole show is packed with laughs. Thea Mayeux brings the most amazing puppy dog energy to the part of Zelda, the poor, put upon gopher who runs around getting the dancers at the Lion’s Den everything they need. It was a buzz just to watch her. Meg Lewis is magnificent as costume designer Flick, who communes with spirits and tries to cleanse the space of bad energy. While Chomley’s Viola is a pretty straight laced character, taking on the role of mentor to our troubled ingenue Marsha (sympathetically played by Ianthe Bathurst), that is until things get farcically out of hand, but I don’t want to say too much as this is a spoiler free zone.
The cast is completed by Cocheene Smith, convincingly intimidating at the owner of the Lion’s Den Tabby and Jasper Dweck who gives amazing “I’m not a bad guy honest” dead body energy as Frank. Our composers and musicians from Layer by Layer music are Mary Johnson, Mischa Jardine and Chloe Dickens, who are a wonderfully effervescent presence on the stage throughout.
The Lions’s Den runs at the Camden People’s Theatre as part for Camden Fringe Festival 2021 until 21st August. While the final performance is deservedly sold out, this show has got to have a future life beyond the fringe, it’d be criminal not to.