The Lion King at the Edinburgh Playhouse and the Year of Experience

Years ago (MANY years ago…. 😉 ), in the days when I was a student living in Glasgow, my friend told me about the Lion King musical. She had just been to see it and couldn’t stop talking about how absolutely amazing it was. I was of course, envious, and also broke – not the best combination for planning a trip to London (or indeed Broadway), but I promised myself that I too would see the show one day. My resolve strengthened when a few years later, my sister saw it in New York (I was less broke by that time, but still envious).

Years passed though, and I never did get to see the show.

In 2013, The Lion King arrived in Edinburgh as part of its first ever UK tour, while I was knee-deep in small children and a new puppy – the timing was, at best, unfortunate. I consoled myself by watching the Disney movie curled up to small children, and said puppy – and later, watching the 2019 adaption, as my little ones grew up.

And then I heard that the show was coming to Edinburgh again, at a time when my own pair of cubs – one now almost 11, one nearly a teenager – were more than able to embrace the Lion King experience. In fact, by this time, they had already visited the theatre on several occasions – at various pantomimes and at a performance of Joseph in Edinburgh a couple of years before. Excited, I booked tickets and a hotel and started counting down the days and weeks until our big city theatre adventure. And then finally, the weekend in question was upon us.

Would the show live up to my savannah-sized expectations?

Or would 20 years of anticipation be too big a weight to bear?

Gail at the Lion King Edinburgh Playhouse

As we settled ourselves into the stalls of Edinburgh’s majestic Playhouse Theatre, I didn’t have to wait long to confirm that my king-sized expectations were unlikely to be a problem. In fact, my eyes were brimming at the first note of ‘Circle of Life,’ the opening number – and my shoulders didn’t stop shaking until baby Simba was proudly held aloft at the end of the first scene. Things continued in a similar manner for the next two hours, as we oo-hed and ah-hed our way through Simba’s adventures, set against the stunning backdrop of the Serengeti Plains and a theatrical feast of puppetry and costume. There is a reason, I think, for the Lion King’s success in achieving a worldwide gross exceeding that of any film, Broadway show or entertainment title in box office history (and yes, I got that from the programme).

Perhaps it’s because it grabs you right in the heart, and for the next two hours or so, quite simply refuses to let go.

The whole thing led me to thinking about my ‘word’ for the year – something I didn’t do in January because of my unwillingness to make New Year plans at New Years. Having had time to reflect on the matter, I now have a word in mind, and hope that 2020 will be the year of ‘experience’ for my family and me. A year not just to embrace new experiences, but also to be fully ‘in’ those experiences and moments when they present themselves. It’s easy, I think, to be so busy trying to capture and share our precious moments that the actual experiences themselves get a little lost to us (and no preaching here – this is something I recognise in myself, as much as other folks).

With all this in mind, I spent the remainder of my time in Edinburgh immersed in the company of my own little ‘pride’ and enjoying the views from the perfectly-placed setting of the fifth-floor John Lewis cafe.

And I daydreamed – about lions, and adventures and experiences.

And dreams that come true after more than 20 years.


If you enjoyed this, you might also be interested in this post on things to do on a 48-hour trip to Edinburgh. Other tips to consider if you are planning a theatre trip to Edinburgh – the Premier Inn, York Place, is an ideal location, and I can also recommend Taste of Italy (2 minutes from the Playhouse), for an affordable, authentic family meal. Be aware that the Playhouse Theatre can get very hot, so stay hydrated (or take a fan for the interval if you are able to!) Finally, don’t forget to pick up booster seats for your little ones as you enter.

Enjoy Scotland’s beautiful capital city – and the show.