The story behind The Lion Inside

Children’s picture books are designed to spark the imagination while giving kids an important message, whether that’s about being kind to one another, dealing with tough feelings, or self-acceptance. Now, Rachel Bright and Jim Field’s bestselling book The Lion Inside has been adapted for the stage, giving children the chance to experience it at the theatre. Let’s take a look at the story and what to expect at the performance.

The littlest, quietest, meekest brown mouse

Under a rock there lives a tiny, quiet mouse who is always getting overlooked. Above him, on top of the rock, is a bold, confident lion who is always showing everyone how important he is. With his loud roar and his amazing strength, he’s always getting plenty of attention. The mouse wants to be a bit more like the lion, and one night he decides that he too needs a roar - then surely everyone will take notice of him. But the only creature that can teach him to roar is the lion, and the lion might want to eat him!

The Lion Inside is a heart-warming tale all about confidence and self-esteem. The picture book and the theatre show both playfully explore the themes of facing our fears, positive feelings, dealing with change and celebrating our differences. Along the way, the mouse finds that even the loudest and most bossy of creatures can get scared sometimes…and that the smallest creatures can have the heart of a lion.

Creating the artwork

When Jim Field began illustrating Rachel Bright’s rhyming story, he created the mouse first, using energetic brush strokes and soft lines. The lion, in contrast, was all sharp angles and bold lines. Their rock is shaped like a lion’s head to give a sense of the lion being king of his desert domain. Field experimented with watercolour textures and warm colours to create the dry, arid landscape where the mouse and the lion live.

The characters and the setting are brought to life in the children’s theatre production with intricate puppets and props painted with the same energy and colours as the book’s illustrations. A cast of four tells the story, with James Keningale playing Mouse and Cailtin Mallory playing Lion.

What to expect

The Lion Inside was published in March 2016 and adapted for the stage by Sarah Punshon, who also directs the production. Music and lyrics are by Eamonn O’Dwyer. As with other children’s theatre shows produced by Nicoll Entertainment, the performance is tailored specifically to kids aged three and up, running for just 55 minutes with no interval. There are plenty of interactive moments to keep little ones engaged, providing a fantastic introduction to the theatre. The show is touring the UK from 14 March to 29 August 2024, so be sure to catch it at a venue near you. You can book your children’s theatre tickets now.