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  Brothers Lionheart
 
 
 

“For many years I was told there were things that were better left unsaid. Things we’d do well not to talk about. But today I need to tell you about those things. I want to share with you places you’ve never dreamed of and places I hope you’ll never see. Something happened one day to my brother and me which changed everything we know and caused us to be known for ever more as ‘The Brothers Lionheart’...  It’s almost like a saga, and just a little like a ghost story, and yet every word is true...

So begins KARL LION, the ten year old hero of this extraordinary tale which has enthralled children of all ages across Europe for over 25 years. Based on a story by the multi-million selling author Astrid Lindgren (internationally famous for her classic ‘Pippi Longstocking’ books), it focuses on two boys, JONATHAN and KARL LION, 13 and 10 years old respectively. They have to prove their bravery in the mythical world of Nangiyala after they both tragically die at the beginning of the show - JONATHAN in a fall while saving the life of his brother, and KARL from ailments he had suffered since birth. After reaching Nangiyala, they find themselves embroiled in a freedom battle against the evil TENGIL and his army as he attempts to become overlord of the whole land and enslave it’s people. KARL, who has always been crippled and has therefore never had the chance to be brave, slowly has to discover his courage as JONATHAN leads him from one adventure to another under the watchful eyes of SOFIA and ORVAR, the leaders of the freedom struggle.

“For many years I was told there were things that were better left unsaid. Things we’d do well not to talk about. But today I need to tell you about those things. I want to share with you places you’ve never dreamed of and places I hope you’ll never see. Something happened one day to my brother and me which changed everything we know and caused us to be known for ever more as ‘The Brothers Lionheart’...  It’s almost like a saga, and just a little like a ghost story, and yet every word is true...” 

So begins KARL LION, the ten year old hero of this extraordinary tale which has enthralled children of all ages across Europe for over 25 years. Based on a story by the multi-million selling author Astrid Lindgren (internationally famous for her classic ‘Pippi Longstocking’ books), it focuses on two boys, JONATHAN and KARL LION, 13 and 10 years old respectively. They have to prove their bravery in the mythical world of Nangiyala after they both tragically die at the beginning of the show - JONATHAN in a fall while saving the life of his brother, and KARL from ailments he had suffered since birth. After reaching Nangiyala, they find themselves embroiled in a freedom battle against the evil TENGIL and his army as he attempts to become overlord of the whole land and enslave it’s people. KARL, who has always been crippled and has therefore never had the chance to be brave, slowly has to discover his courage as JONATHAN leads him from one adventure to another under the watchful eyes of SOFIA and ORVAR, the leaders of the freedom struggle. 

They find themselves to be the linchpins of the struggle as they encounter treason and treachery, death and dishonour whilst attempting to free ORVAR, the only man they believe can lead the freedom fighters to victory and once again liberate Cherry and Wild Rose Valleys. But TENGIL has a trump card to guarantee victory for evil - an ancient she-dragon named KATLA who obeys his every command when he sounds his magic battle horn, and whose fire can either kill or paralyse.  Allegedly, her only adversary is a mythical sea-serpent, KARM, who many believe they have heard but none have ever seen. 

After the final battle in which the legendary creatures finally pitch their wits against each other when evil appears to have won, JONATHAN and KARL find themselves in exactly the reverse situation of the opening of the play. Although they have won their freedom, most of their friends have died and passed on to the paradise world of  Nangilima through their bravery and purity of spirit. JONATHAN has already known death once, taking his young brother on his back and leaping from a blazing upper storey window, which is where we first met him. Now the once-timid KARL has to decide whether to take JONATHAN, paralysed by KATLA’S fire, on his own back and make the leap into oblivion which will enable them both to enter Nangilima. It will be the bravest thing he has ever had to do.

With stunning original music by Richard Storry (‘Kennedy - The Thousand Days’, ‘The Three Sisters’ - West End 2003) THE BROTHERS LIONHEART is a story which will enthral British audiences in the same way it has captured the hearts of Europe for decades.

 

“…Chokingly Wagnerian…”    PETER WILSON - PW PRODUCTIONS

    “…fantastic story…has the potential to make magical theatre…”  “…I especially liked the epic quality of the music…” ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY

“…found your adaptation gripping…” ROYAL NATIONAL THEATRE

    “…please feel free to use my name in connection with the future of Lionheart - it all sounds very exciting!…”  DEREK JACOBI (Approached with regard to, and interested in, playing ‘Mathias’)

 

THE CLASSIC BOOK

 

Astrid Lindgren has sold, officially, 80 million books around the world. However, at a conservative estimate, another 50 million are known to have been reproduced illegally in what was the old Eastern bloc, making a rough total of 130 million. She has written 38 books for younger readers, 40 picture books, a few miscellaneous others and there have been 11 anthologies. There have also been 27 feature films made of her work and numerous TV series.

 

She was born in 1907 and started to write in the mid-40’s, becoming Head of the Children’s Department at Rabén & Sjögren in 1946 and retaining the position until 1970. During her wonderful and colourful career she won 42 awards including The Hans Christian Andersen Award, The Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, Swede of the Year, The Leo Tolstoy International Gold Medal and was made an honorary doctor of Leicester University in 1978.

 

THE BROTHERS LIONHEART was written in 1973, first published in the UK in 1975 and a feature film was made in Swedish in 1977. To date, it has been translated into 37 languages and is one of the most enduring stories of the average European childhood.  Indeed, since writing the adaptation, I have heard from Swedish, Danish, German, French, Dutch and Icelandic folk telling me it is the most enchanting story they ever read and has stayed with them until adulthood - crystal clear in it’s detail in many cases. Several families have copies of the book in their native tongue which they still regularly read to their own children.

 

I first saw the story in 1998 while visiting ‘Junibacken’ (‘Pippi’s House’) which is a small, Astrid Lindgren themed venue, with my own four year old daughter. Whilst Pippi Longstocking is, and probably always will be, the lasting testament to Ms. Lindgren, other of her stories are equally as spellbinding and my first impressions of ‘The Brothers Lionheart’ have not changed one iota since then. It is a remarkable tale of bravery and brotherly love set in an amazing, legendary world of the afterlife. It is an adventure from the beyond - a quest for paradise through the unwitting eyes of a ten and a thirteen year old boy, who ultimately show that life offers nothing to fear if those fears are confronted.

 

Whilst it is not a musical, there are three short songs within it; one a lullaby to show the passage of time, the other two sung by locals either to intimidate enemies or to rally together - the songs are those of the campfire, all part of the tradition of the saga. There is, however, stunningly emotive original music by the wonderful composer and musician Richard Storry (international recording quartet ‘Tetra’; composer of ‘Kennedy - The Thousand Days’ and ‘The Three Sisters’ - West End 2003) to go with the piece.

 

Personally, I adore the story (as did my family) and I enjoyed every moment of adapting it for the stage. I sincerely hope you enjoy discovering it with equal relish.

 

 

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