Mickey and Lionel

'Mickey and Lionel' by Vicky Ireland, presented by Replay Theatre Company.

'Mickey and Lionel' by Vicky Ireland, presented by Replay Theatre Company.

'Mickey and Lionel' by Vicky Ireland, presented by Replay Theatre Company.

'Mickey and Lionel' by Vicky Ireland, presented by Replay Theatre Company.

Dealing with the trials of childhood, Mickey and Lionel is based on Aesop’s fable 'The Mouse and the Lion', written down by Valerius Babrius in the second century A.D. This tale of the strength and importance of the small and the seemingly weak is simple: captured by the lion, the mouse is set free with the understanding that the mouse may one day be in a position to help the lion, and so he does. Taking the basic tale, Vicky Ireland transforms it into a somewhat complicated story of two young friends who grow to know and help each other.

Mickey (Michael Lavery), called Mickey Mouse, and Lionel (Patrick Buchanan), who refers to himself as a lion, strike up an unlikely friendship when Mickey begins sitting on a wall which Lionel feels is his wall. Initially bullied by Lionel who steals his possessions, Mickey begins to like his new friend as he learns that Lionel’s unacceptable behaviour is caused by a traumatic event in his family life. Ireland has managed to cram a lot (perhaps too much) into this half-hour play and the text engages with a number of themes such as bullying, imaginative play, friendship, and parent-child relations.

'Mickey and Lionel' presented by Replay Theatre Company.Dressed in school uniforms, the enthusiastic adult actors perform the roles of the child characters and move around Ciaran Bagnall’s simple and colourful set. However, under David Fenton’s direction, such is their focus on acting like five and six year olds that their performances risk patronising the child audience and there is little room for representing fully-rounded characters. Despite this, there are moments of excitement and humour throughout the play as the characters enter the imaginative world of the cave and its multi-coloured contents, using rude words to cast spells and to protect their secret stash.

The play is also interesting in its representation of friendship as, although initially a victim of Lionel’s bullying, Mickey does not hesitate to help his new friend in a time of need. However, the script is also problematic in its failure to fully address this key issue of bullying. While Lionel’s behaviour may be explained to a certain extent, its appropriateness is never questioned.

Overall, the performance is slow-paced and, dominated by weighty dialogue, the production lacks energy. Despite such shortcomings the play has a lot to offer a young audience, addressing the complex nature of friendship and representing characters that find the courage to recognise their own strength.

Pádraic Whyte is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Irish Studies, Queen’s University Belfast.

  • Review
  • Theatre

Mickey and Lionel by Vicky Ireland

22 - 24 May, 2010

Produced by Replay Theatre Company
In Baby Grand, Grand Opera House

Directed by David Fenton

Dramaturg: Beccy Smith

Design: Ciaran Bagnall

Composer: Conor Mitchell

Lighting Design: Ciaran Bagnall

With: Michael Lavery and Patrick Buchanan

Mickey and Lionel was presented as part of Belfast Children’s Festival 2010.

Audience: 4-7 years