The Lion King: Rafiki is not a man

May 24, 2009

Rafiki is not a man…

My housemate and his misses took a venture to London last week to see The Lion King musical. As i didn’t wanna crash their party being a third addition to the love boat i asked Ben to write a review for me. I was a tad shocked that Rafiki (the annoying baboon) was a woman.

It had been a long day, but finally we were here…row K of the grand circle, we’d been sat in our seats for what seemed like an eternity and the pressure was becoming unbearable, being somewhat an expert of the lion king stage performance…ok, well I’ve seen it once before, but I’ve watched the film at least a fifty times, I knew what was coming as I sat back and waited for my girlfriends reaction…Curtain UP.

The opening cries from the baboon himself echoed around the Lyceum, wait, ‘that is not a he!’ I thought. Maybe it has always been a she and I was too caught up in this awe inspiring, opening scene the last time to even notice or care, but I know now Rafiki is not a man. Before I go any further this is not a sexist rant, far from it, my problem lies with the voice, as fantastic as it was and later found out was the original vocalist of the epic ‘circle of life’ from the motion picture, it just didn’t work as Rafiki. Apart from being far too feminine for an African nut-job monkey, who for the previous reason only seems to get invited to the few family gatherings that are completely necessary. The voice was too weak to be carried off in a theatre that big and without the support of the goats, from the boxes that flanked the stage, this crucially mind blowing scene could have fallen on its arse…but luckily it didn’t and the magic grew. For the next few minutes I could sit back and enjoy the creative genius of the costume design, stage construction and legendary music bringing the show together in formidable harmony that for anyone who has witnessed the show before knows, can bring a grown man to his knees in awe.
However the following scene pulled me out of the show and back into central London.

Enter Simba. Now I know this could be perceived as cruel as the child performer is most probably only in their early teens, if that, but this is the West End! Does this mean nothing now? Flicking through the programme during the interval provided the answer…no.

The producers scan the local schools hoping to find the next great West End talent, I’m all for giving kids a shot at the big time, but were they scraping the barrel?! In the words of Peter GriffinI was very aware I was watching a show right then and this kid was not pulling me into the story at all’. Besides the crucial singing ability somewhat lacking and the repetition of lines becoming increasingly irritating, no attempt was used to hide his toe curling accent, this is an international stage production of the Lion King not the Lie-on Keng, someone needs to sit down this ‘actor’ with clearly an over inflated sense of achievement and tell them that they have not made it and to pull their finger out or sling it!

After the initial torment of act one and the curse of the child actor the show began to stop dragging its heels as act two did not fail to produce the goods with fantastic choreography being mixed, thankfully, with great acting, the pros had arrived. As well as great comical performances from characters Timon and Pumba, there was a memorable performance of ‘He lives in you’ after a very imaginative and well choreographed Simba and Mufasa reunion. The show continued to hold no punches and the engineering of the sets to recreate scenes from the motion picture was astounding, reinstalling my faith in the live show, for those that have and those that haven’t witnessed the marvel of this performance, it is a must see and never fails to leave you with a lasting impression of brilliance.

Review by Ben Palmer



  1. Oh come on Rafiki is amazing even as a woman and you know it. I personally like it better. Rafiki is awesome and always will be and almost all the woman who play her have great voices.

  2. Yeah, I agree with the previous response and one other thing..that kid was freaking awesome so stop wishing you were him, k?

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