Max Alexander-Taylor gives an emotive, impassioned performance that is sure to strike a chord with audiences (pun intended).

© Pamela Raith

The Lion was written by Benjamin Scheuer, it provided him with a sort of therapy when so many things were happening within his own life. The story is autobiographical, covering Ben’s life from his childhood. Scheuer performed The Lion over 500 times across the USA and UK, winning a Drama Desk Award and Off-West End Award along the way. For this production he has handed over the reins, with Max Alexander-Taylor starring as Ben in this one-man musical.

When the audience enters the Little, the smaller of Southwark Playhouse’s two spaces, Alexander-Taylor greets and chats to them before the show began.

The staging is simple with bare light bulbs on candlesticks and suspended from the ceiling, aiding the atmosphere of the intimate space. It also means that all eyes are on Alexander-Taylor throughout the show, as there are no props or settings to hide behind, he is front and centre.

© Pamela Raith

Throughout the show, five guitars are used. They are each used to produce different sounds. With Ben playing rock during his angsty teenage years and using an electric guitar. To using a smaller ukulele style instrument for his childhood years when he was desperate for his father to teach him to play the guitar. The music is also used to highlight how the audience should feel, during tense moments the music becomes tense and serious, and when Ben is happy the music is happy.

When the show began I was very confused that Ben’s accent was British, as he said that he was from New York City. However, this meant that whenever he done another person’s voice such as his dad’s or his girlfriend Julia’s – the audience can pick apart the conversations he is portraying with ease.

The fourth wall is broken throughout the show, with Alexander-Taylor sitting with audience members at times.

© Pamela Raith

This production heavily relies on the pure talent of Max Alexander-Taylor. His voice is stunning, but it’s his guitar playing that impressed me the most. It was effortless and natural, and very impressive. He had complete control over the audience, I could not take my eyes off him – there was even a moment where he had a sip of water and still my eyes never left him.

During the tense moments of the show, you could have heard a pin drop. And the audience were on the edge of their seats wondering what would happen next.

At the end of the show I felt sad it was over, something that’s unusual for me. I had tears in my eyes as I applauded the outstanding talent of Alexander-Taylor. He gave one of the best musical performances I have seen this year. And filled me with a mixture of emotions.

The Lion is raw and honest, with the most beautiful music – I am a fan of acoustic music and therefore adored the score of this show. The titular song The Lion, was the best in the show. But there are so many musical highlights throughout.

It was a shame that the theatre was half empty, this show has so much to offer and the talent exhibited here is second to none. Many of the themes within the show are relatable and illicit emotional reactions to the audience.

If you’re looking for incredible music and a beautiful story – this one’s for you. I am excited for what Max Alexander-Taylor does next, and if you have a chance to see the show in London or on tour – GO!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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