I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS – Vaudeville Theatre, London.
Adapted from the hugely successful story by Michael Morpurgo, I Believe in Unicorns is brought to life on stage with only one storyteller and a mountain of books. The setup looks welcoming enough, yet it doesn’t instantly pull you into the narrative. However what makes the performance so clever are the many surprises and moments of beauty hidden within.
Danyah Miller takes the whole experience in her stride and welcomes the young audience warmly and with a degree of maturity which is not often seen within children’s Theatre. In fact without the calmness and engagement of Miller, the intricacies and layers of the performance simply wouldn’t work. The balance between interaction and traditional storytelling is just about right, although children under six may find the performance just a little above them (advised for 6+) and we are soon swept up into the imagination of Tomas; a daydreamer who loves to climb mountains, yet becomes an unlikely hero to a village library in the depths of war.
There are moments of technical joy which adds to the unpredictability of the piece, but a particularly lovely element is the way Miller interacts with the children for an spontanious segment of the story. Incorporating in some capacity all ideas thrown at her, Miller weaves together an imaginative micro-story on the spot which somehow still fits in with style of the performance. Add a dash of simple sound cues and a drop of video projection and you end up with a recipe that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike.
My only comment – not necessarily a negative one – is that the whole piece feels like it stays on one continuous level. Snippets of sadness and violence are touched upon which changes the dynamics slightly, but the audience are never left gripping onto their seats eager to reach that final climactic moment. This may be down to the large venue and is only a minor observation, but all reservations are quashed when looking at the piece in its entirety: A magical journey, delving into a story that is encompassed by a range of other narratives, each containing monumental treasures. If there is any way to show the importance of the ever-decreasing libraries, I Believe in Unicorns strikes a perfect cord.
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By Natalie Green