Hippo scientist Dr Zeiffal is lacking one very important qualification: she’s never actually seen a hippo in the wild. Fortunately, she explains, there has recently been a sighting in Edinburgh – so now is almost certainly her moment. It’s just a matter of tracking the little blighter down.
Mouths of Lions theatre company bring real energy and an easy charm to Dr Zeiffal’s hunt for the eponymous mammal, employing plenty of ‘he’s behind you’-style pantomime fun and lots of cheery dashing about. The company’s artistic director, Georgia Murphy, has lovely stage presence as the timid yet extremely enthusiastic scientist – most of the young audience appear rapt by her every expression and are kept giggling throughout. Oliver Weatherly, doubling as the hippo and Dr Zeiffal’s tardy assistant, is also enjoyable to watch, but he has far less to do, giving the play an unbalanced feel.
Theatre for family audiences can afford to take its time – it’s important to give children of different ages the chance to get the joke, and younger ones particularly love repetition, but Mouths of Lions need to up the pace. There are too many moments in this otherwise energetic piece that drag, a problem that would be easily solved by cutting the show’s running time by 10 to 15 minutes and condensing the action. The company might consider adjusting the recommended age range on the show too – the babies and toddlers watching the performance I saw were easily distracted, and it’s hard to imagine it doing much for children over the age of 10.
If you like spirited, silly, interactive theatre—and bearded men in hippo costumes—Mouths of Lions are worthy company.