I Believe in Unicorns at Vaudeville
The stage dressing at the Vaudeville Theatre is pretty unassuming: books litter the boards in disorganised piles, and except for a few pieces of simple wooden furniture and a carved model of a unicorn, there is little else in view. Even for a library, the space is pretty uninspiring, but just as all books contain more than their covers suggest, the ones that fill the stage here will transform into tiny houses, golden eggs, giant maps and plenty more besides.
I Believe in Unicorns is unmistakably a play for children. It follows the story of an unseen boy named Thomas, who resents his mother’s constant attempts to get him reading, preferring instead to adventure in the neighbouring mountains. Little by little, Thomas is convinced of the worth of books and by the play’s end is a devout reader, but his story is just one of many that are told by “The Unicorn Lady” during the play.
As any primary school teacher will tell you, keeping the attention of 30 five-year-olds is not an easy task, let alone a hundred or so. That sole star Danyah Miller, playing the lively Unicorn Lady, manages to keep the entire primary school audience interested is a testament to her appealing and generally non-patronising storytelling style. Her excitement shines through the script, and both her and it are perfectly pitched for her diminutive audience.
That said, I Believe in Unicorns sometimes asks a lot: there are oblique references to World War II’s brown shirts and burning villages. But these darker themes are never explicitly focused on and it’s not long before there’s something else to hold a young child’s attention. As well as the visual spectacle of books transforming into objects from the stories, the play uses video projection to allow a bird the to fly across the stage and show Thomas running through his beloved mountains.
I Believe in Unicorns is a well produced, well executed play for children that does an excellent job of illustrating the joy of reading to its audience. There’s not a lot here for accompanying adults, but the mixture of audience participation, multimedia effects, and genuinely engaging storytelling, should keep children enchanted from start to finish.
Joe Manners Lewis
Photo: Richard Davenport
I Believe in Unicorns is on at Vaudeville Theatre until 31st August 2014, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for I Believe in Unicorns here: