The Butterfly Lion

By Michael Morpurgo 
In a new adaptation by Anna Ledwich

Minerva Theatre
Family Friendly
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Thrilling, heart-wrenching drama. You’re in for a treat


Epic and captivating


Undoubtedly the highlight of the 2019 summer season

Chichester Observer

A gripping and delightful interpretation to enchant young and old

Chichester Post

When Bertie is sent away from the African farm of his childhood to school in England, he leaves behind not only his beloved mother and the beautiful land, swarming with wildlife, but also his best friend – a white lion he rescued as a cub.

Bertie’s struggle to adjust to his new life in harsh, grey England is alleviated only by a chance friendship with the equally lonely Millie and his dreams of his treasured lion, now trapped in a French circus. But their remarkable journey is only just beginning, and the pair are destined to meet again.

The Butterfly Lion combines music, design and puppetry to bring a magical adventure to life: celebrating nature, friendship and the triumph of love.

Based on Michael Morpurgo’s best-selling novel, which won the Smarties Prize and the Writers’ Guild Award, this new stage adaptation is written by CFT’s Writer-in-Residence Anna Ledwich and directed by Dale Rooks whose many Chichester productions include The Midnight Gang (2018) and Running Wild (2015).

Purchase a digital copy of the programme

Our programmes are designed to be the perfect insightful companion to the production. In this programme Michael Morpurgo talks to us about The Butterfly Lion and there is an article about the rare white lions of Timbavati. In addition there is rehearsal photography, biographies, events and news from the Theatre.

By clicking on BUY you will be re-directed to Issuu's website. The purchased programme will be available to read on their website and app. 

Purchasing a digital programme does not include the purchase of a printed programme.

Prologue tickets available



Thrilling, heart-wrenching drama. You’re in for a treat. Anna Ledwich’s adaptation is sleek, muscular and fleet-footed, and the production by Dale Rooks shimmers with invention. Be warned: it’s emotionally unstinting. It’s also entirely gorgeous. Take some tissues, and enjoy.


An utterly charming show that is both epic in ambition and captivating in the telling.

Dale Rooks' production is both technically advanced and theatrically simple in its approach but at all times lets the storytelling take the lead. Designer Simon Higlett has created a beautiful canvas onto which Simon Wainwright's gorgeous video designs can be projected, like a glorious colour wash being painted before our eyes. A visual treat.


Brilliant, heart-warming and superbly-acted and visualised. A gripping and delightful interpretation to enchant young and old.

Chichester Post

Michael Morpurgo’s modern classic is beautifully transferred to the stage in an exceptional night at Chichester Festival Theatre - undoubtedly the highlight of the 2019 summer season. The Butterfly Lion soars because it gives us theatre at its most poignant, the theatre of longing, of hopes and dreams and memories. Dale Rooks directs with her trademark mix of sureness, intelligence and sensitivity. The result is absolutely beautiful, every last effort, every last detail rich and to be savoured.

Chichester Observer

Visually bewitching. The mane attraction is Nick Barnes’ adult lion puppet.

The Stage

The cast are excellent, the younger members outstanding. The puppet-work is sublime. I’m overjoyed to say – it’s a must-see

Portsmouth News

Dale Rooks, who runs Chichester’s excellent Learning and Participation Programme, is a stunningly good director and she squeezes every ounce of magic, emotion and delight from Anna Ledwich’s adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel using a large, talented cast of adults and children. A show full of theatrical surprises. The standing ovation was richly deserved.

Sardines Magazine

This exquisite, captivating and enchanting production truly dazzles with its own special magic.


Enhanced by a crack creative team (lighting by Johanna Town, sound by Gregory Clarke and video by Simon Wainright), the play’s journey, which traverses the wilds of South Africa to rural England and the battlefields of France, is a collective design triumph. Director Dale Rooks has invested such care that not even the smallest detail falls short. Making it feel as if you are watching a labour of love rather than simply an extremely polished production; her Butterfly Lion has palpable heart and soul. It makes the heart sing.

Frost Magazine

Cast & Creatives


Cast List

Adam Buchanan


Lucas Button

Sporty / Jack the Dog / White Lion Cub / Old White Lion

James Charlton

English Teacher / Browning / Old White Lion

Jonathan Dryden Taylor

Michael / Monsieur Merlot

Rachel Hosker

Latin Teacher / Nicholson / Café Owner

Claudia Jolly


Guy Lewis

George / Mr Cook

Kevin Mathurin

James / Old White Lion

Allison McKenzie

Isobel / Nanny Mason / Butcher

Charleen Qwaye

Miss Tulips / Nurse Jones

Nicola Sloane

Old Millie

Sebastian Bessant


Ellie Bradbury

Young Millie

Archie Elliot

Young Bertie

Ruari Finnegan

Young Michael

Anthony Harvey

Young Michael

Rudi Millard

Nathaniel / Bannister / Soldier

Matilda Shapland

Young Millie

Hugo Talbot


Jack Taylor

Basher Beaumont / Soldier

Alex Webb

Young Bertie

Creative team

Cast List

Dale Rooks


Simon Higlett


Johanna Town

Lighting Designer

Tom Brady


Gregory Clarke

Sound Designer

Simon Wainwright

Video Designer

Nick Barnes


Kane Husbands

Movement Director

Luyanda Lennox Jezile

Additional Music

Charlotte Sutton

Casting Director



CFT Podcast with Michael Morpurgo

Listen to Episode 20 of our CFT Podcast series to hear from Michael Morpurgo himself, talking about where the story for The Butterfly Lion came from and how it feels to have your novels adapted for the stage.


Age Guidance 
Ages 7+
Running Time
2 hours and 5 minutes including the interval