Lady Parts Theatre is a company set up to create works showcasing strong parts for women. Because She Loved the Lion provides three excellent female roles, each one performed very well by the cast of three women. Particularly notable is Nula Maguire’s exuberance as the 8-year-old Millie.
The story is a harrowing one. Mllie’s mum Ella is involved with a violent alcoholic, while her sister Sally tries to persuade her to leave him before something awful happens. The story is told through a series of short scenes, and we keep returning to Millie’s favourite bedtime story, about a mouse that rescues a lion only to be eaten up for her troubles. This is a nice motif, and Millie’s realisation of what her mother’s fable is trying to tell her is the show’s strongest moment.
However, before we get to that point, the story suffers from a confused timeline. The short scenes jump around, and it not often clear how much time has passed between each one; the transitions are reliant on lighting cues, which could be slicker.
And many of the most pivotal events, because they involve Ella’s never-seen boyfriend, happen off-stage – leaving much of the story told to us after the event with exposition-heavy conversation. At one point events turn on something Millie has witnessed, but exactly what that actually was is never convincingly portrayed.
Aunt Sally has a thankless role in the story, constantly trying to help her sister when she just won’t help herself. In real life, watching a person you care about go round and round in circles – finding more and more ways to justify their self-destructive behaviour – can be exhausting. This spot-on portrayal is one of the show’s strengths, but also its weakness. It might be authentic, but with little dramatic structure to carry us through, we are trapped in the same cycle watching Ella. Despite best efforts to make us understand her motivations, after a while it’s easy to become exasperated with her.