Interview With… Gugwana Dlamini

Ahead of The Lion King’s 20th anniversary celebrations on the 20th October and the start of a brand new tour, Emma Clarendon chatted to the actress about starring in the production.

How does it feel to be part of The Lion King? It’s a great feeling to be part of such an iconic production like The Lion King. From day
one, when I first joined the production, I knew I’d be very happy. I feel truly honoured especially at a time when it is celebrating 20 years in the West End. It’s a fantastic achievement. It’s beyond my imagination and I feel very grateful. Being in this production feels like one big family and I feel very at home. Joining The Lion King production is like a home from home for me. We have an international cast from around the world who are all giving their best so coming to work makes it feel like family to me. Every day that I come into work it feels like I’m going home, a second home because it means I’m going to meet and see, and share the stage with people I love and respect so much. We are all working together to share this wonderful story to a different audience every night.

What do you think has been the secret to its success over the last twenty years? I would say that it’s mostly the dedication that we all put in as cast members and crew, both past and present. Everyone is working together to give the best possible performance. It’s the combination of great creativity and storytelling with everyone’s hard work and
dedication that has helped make this a truly successful production. It’s all the work of everyone not just us as cast members but all the different people working on the lighting, puppetry, wardrobe, makeup and many more – everyone coming together to tell this unique story. It’s a timeless story with universal themes that makes it appealing to both young and
old. Simba’s journey touches everyone sitting in the audience because we can all relate to it in some way. It’s a story of hope.

What was your first experience of seeing The Lion King?My experience has been a very beautiful journey. I have been involved with The Lion King
since the 1994 animation soundtrack when Lebo M and Hans Zimmer came to South Africa to record it. At the time, even though we were shown a few clips from the animated movie and how it related to the music, I never thought for one second that I would be part of this huge success 20 years later. Being part of this family and being part of this production is a
huge honour and I feel very grateful. As an audience member, I remember watching the Dutch production and hearing the audiences reactions and watching their facial expressions, it touched me so much and confirmed that this was the right show for me. I felt so proud.

What’s your favourite moment in the show? My favourite moment in the show is definitely the opening number – Circle Of life. To see
all the animals walking through the theatre and entering on stage is such a beautiful moment. To hear and to see the audiences reaction to this performance is amazing. Some of the audience cheer, some of them clap, some of them even cry – it’s a beautiful moment.  I get to play Rafiki who is the first character that the audience see in the show, the first note
that the audience hears comes from me. I get to interact with the audience, I’m able to look at them and ask them questions. Rafiki is the heartbeat of the show and I feel honoured to play her.

If you had to describe the show what would you say? It’s a beautiful show with a timeless story that captures the hearts and minds of both
young and old.

What do you think it is about the story itself that continues to resonate with the audience? The story is beautiful. Audiences are amazed by the music, the masks and puppetry, the staging, and the fantastic lighting and set design. It’s one of those shows that when you see it,
you will have to come back because you might miss something while you’re looking at something else. Audiences can relate to the themes that are explored in the show, there are happy moments, we also have sad moments – it feels like everyday life. It’s a story of love, a little sadness but most of all hope.

For those who have yet to experience seeing The Lion King for themselves why do you think they should come along and see it? They should come along because it’s a spectacular show. The story is beautiful and it will blow their mind.

By Emma Clarendon

The Lion King continues to play at the Lyceum Theatre. To book tickets click here or visit: Love Theatre.comEncore TicketsSee TicketsFrom the Box OfficeTheatre Tickets Minute.comATG Tickets and West End Theatre Breaks. The show is currently also touring the UK. More information about the tour can be found here:

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