When award-winning story teller Michael Morpurgo announces that a production is so good that people should see it rather than buying his book you know that a play is pretty special.

Even without the special question and answer sessions with the master of children’s tales after the Barn Theatre’s latest production, The Butterfly Lion, the standing ovation at the end of the performance and cheers were a give away as to exactly how special this show is.

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But Sir Morpurgo’s sincere words of praise must have been an added thrill for the already beaming cast and crew.

“It’s been a glorious evening - an extraordinary evening - a ‘told story’ has n retold with intention and conviction,” Sir Morpurgo told the packed audience in Cirencester. I loved it again, I’d lost the place and the characters of The Butterfly Lion, but this wonderful production has brought them home to me.

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“It was so much better than the book, really don’t even bother reading the book - come and see this instead.”

For those unfamiliar with the story the tales spans nearly a century across rural Wiltshire, to the heat-baked sands of the African Veldt, with a heart-stopping, dramatic visit to war-torn France along the way.

Using exquisite puppetry, a deceptively simple stage design, and a cast whose impressive background and experience only go a short way to preparing the audience for what they manage to communicate on stage - this show is a game changer - this is the one which you will not want to miss.

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In itself the story of the young boy who runs away from school and listens enraptured to the story of the lonely little boy on the African plain who adopts a white lion against his father’s wishes is beautiful, heart-wrenching and life-affirming in equal measure.

Michael Morpurgo is a master of gently capturing the imagination of both adults and children alike, he manages to present complex, occasionally harrowing, subjects with refreshing simplicity.

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“Children know loss and loneliness too,” he said after the show. “We should speak to them about all emotions. They have an extraordinary scope for emotion and intellect, we should never patronise them, or belittle them.”

And this show does neither, in fact the cast somehow manage to draw the audience onto the stage with them to enjoy the story as it unfolds.

For those who have read the book Daniel Buckroyd, who adapted the original book for this production, proves himself to be a talented storyteller in his own right. His clever decision to use one actor as both Bertie and Michael reinforces the enchanting connection that young Michael feels with the story, and the central characters.

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Actor Jasper William Cartwright’s masterful handling of the leap between the two characters, at times jumping across decades and thousands of miles in doing so - is worth a special mention.

Make sure you get tickets for this production, fall in love with theatre, fall in love with Michael Morpurgo.

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The team at The Barn Theatre have kindly given The Standard two programmes for this production for a reader competition.

To be in with a chance to win click on the link below and give your answer to the following question via the link in this article there.

What is the name of the old woman who tells Michael the story of Bertie and his lion?

Make sure you give us your answer by midnight, Sunday, April 7. Submit your answer here.

  • The Butterfly Lion, Apr 2 - May 4, Barn Theatre, Cirencester. More details and tickets visit barntheatre.org.uk