Lionhunt!‘ was a commission from ENO Baylis, written with composer John Webb, a specialist in Early Years music education. The brief was to write a piece for Key Stage 1 children – Years 1 & 2 – introducing them to the concept of an opera house, to the vocabulary associated with it, and to the jobs that people might do inside.

Children from several different primary schools in Southwark were brought to the London Coliseum to look round the building and then do a workshop in which they interviewed puppet animals about working in the theatre. Drawing on the children’s discoveries and suggestions about what animal might do which job, I wrote the libretto for Lionhunt! and John then set it to music.  The children learned the songs and dances in their school classrooms, taught by their own teachers with occasional visits from ENO practitioners.  They then returned to the Coliseum to perform the piece in a designated performance space, complete with specially-designed set and costumes.

Brian the Lion is missing at the curtain call after an opera performance of Androcles and the Lion in which he is starring. So, once the audience has gone home, Signor Macaroni asks the Conductor, the Director, the Big Fat Bass and the Glamorous Soprano to help him hunt for his missing star. As they comb the building, they meet various animals, doing different jobs in the theatre, who offer to come and help in the search for Brian.

We’re looking high, we’re looking low
Where did Brian the Lion go?
With a flick of his tail and a click of his claws
He’s vanished away behind one of these doors.
Let’s knock and take a peek inside
And see if the Lion came here to hide…

This versatile piece can be done by any primary school class, ideally, but not exclusively, in conjunction with their local theatre.

Contact Tamsin or John Webb for further details.

Comments from Participants

“If I could wave my magic wand I would have this in every single school in the country as it does the children so much good. Just seeing them bond together, teamwork, looking after each other – they’ve put so much into it and they are now so proud.”

Teaching Assistant, Tower Bridge Primary School, Southwark

“Children should absolutely be given these opportunities for their development, self-esteem and confidence – they should all have these opportunities”

Teaching Assistant, St. Joseph’s Primary School, Southwark

“There is one child who is really withdrawn sometimes, she doesn’t have a great background, and to me she’s been the star – her singing and her enthusiasm. It’s really brought her out. The boys have really loved it. I thought at first they wouldn’t like it – as there was singing and dancing etc., but they’ve been brilliant. I think the animal theme; the writing and the jazzy nature of the music have meant that it has been accessible for the boys.  The boys love the dog song and the jazzy style of the snake song. It’s been just right.”

Teacher, Tower Bridge Primary School, Southwark

“One little girl came into school and said ‘Oh miss, my Grandma has told me to be quiet because I keep practising dog song. She said, I sing it all the time and I sing it on the way to school in the morning.’ This shows that they’re taking it home – it’s not just a school thing.”

Teacher, Tower Bridge Primary School, Southwark

“We’ve done a display of the all the new words and we made a big banner across one of the classroom walls of the all the words they were finding particularly difficult. They would never come to places like the Coliseum so it’s been really enriching for them.”

Teacher, Tower Bridge Primary School, Southwark

“It was amazing.  I’d like to come back here.”

Pupil, Tower Bridge Primary School, Southwark