Hakuna Matata!

Samantha Renke heads to London’s West End to take in a show… and The Lion King did not disappoint

PICS : © DEEN VAN MEER

When Disney contacted the Enable team to invite me to the live stage performance of The Lion King, I casually accepted the offer. I then immediately dashed to tell my PA and we did a happy dance around my kitchen… What a treat! 

Disney’s beloved film has been transformed into a spectacular stage production by acclaimed director Julie Taymor. The re-imagined stage version explodes with glorious colours, stunning effects, and enchanting music.

At its heart is the powerful story of Simba’s journey – from wide-eyed cub to his destined role as king of the Pride Lands. I’d never seen the film (I was a devout Little Mermaid fan, ironically), so I was going into the performance bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. 

A trip to London for dinner and a show is something of a rite of passage. For a wheelchair user though, a visit to any busy city requires plenty of forward planning. 

The Lyceum is nestled in the heart of London’s busy West End. Luckily, there’s a taxi drop-off point right outside. I’d suggest downloading either GETT or FreeNow – these apps let you book wheelchair-accessible cabs in the city. 

GREAT ACCESS 

As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by friendly staff who directed us to the clearly signposted accessible entrance. Our designated escort kindly showed us the accessible bathrooms – for anyone with a disability, knowing we can use a bathroom with comfort and ease is a real priority when we leave our homes. To my delight, the Lyceum Theatre offers two accessible bathrooms, both big enough for a powerchair user. 

We were then taken to the bar/waiting area. It was so nice to see so many other wheelchair users in this space too, allowing us a pre-show natter. Of course, I had to have a cheeky drink and snoop at the well stocked merchandise shop. I’m such a sentimental fool and had to pick up a Simba keychain.

Before the show started and the crowds descended, our escort showed us to our seats at the rear of the stalls. I was using my powerchair, and one of the perks of being positioned at the back is that you can elevate your chair without interrupting anyone’s view. 

GOOSEBUMPS

Sometimes life can be full-on. We need to prioritise our wellbeing and we all deserve a little bit of escapism. But – truth be told – I’ve often found the whole theatre experience to be the exact opposite. I’m not a fan of crowds and can easily become overwhelmed by loud noises and too much stimulation. 

However, unlike other performances which at times I find jarring and even irritating due to their chaos, The Lion King did the reverse. From the first scene I had goosebumps. 

We were shown the beauty of nature, with stars, sunrises, fluttering insects, and glowing reflections. I felt so comforted to be surrounded by the beautiful costumes depicting the lion pride, giraffes, gazelles… and heck, even the hyenas! 

It’s worth noting that the performers in their glorious costumes do dance down the aisles for a more subversive performance – just a heads up for anyone who sees the show but isn’t expecting to get so up close and personal with the characters. 

The performance embraced the essence of biophilia – a love of life. It was exactly what my soul needed. 

My PA and I had a magical time watching Disney’s The Lion King. We both cried and sang along to the iconic numbers, feeling completely at ease in our surroundings. I felt really welcomed and was able to navigate the theatre myself, so much so that my PA admitted “I can’t believe I get paid for this!” and said I hadn’t really needed them that day. The Lion King is definitely one to watch. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION 

Discover more about accessible and inclusive performances with Disney at www.disneytickets.co.uk. Check out Samantha’s Instagram and TikTok for footage of her trip.

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