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Archive for February, 2016

The first thing I noticed when we walked into the theatre were the stacks and stacks of books piled up high around the stage. I thought they were simply to set the scene of the library, but they turned out to be so much more. What looked like a simple set surprised the audience with secret compartments and hideaways for all manner of intriguing things. Little ladders, a golden egg, real milk that was poured into a cup, a kite chase that thrilled the children, and a Russian doll style book-in-a-book-in-a-book. There were huge white pages pulled out that became a screen, pop-up houses, and other treasures hidden in those books. I was amazed at how Danyah Miller could keep track of where everything was because she kept moving the books around and restacking them here and there. I passingly thought about how the pre-show setup checklist must be quite detailed.

I Believe in Unicorns 2105 at Vaudeville Theatre Photo Credit: Richard Davenport. richard@rwdavenport.co.uk. 07545642134

Books everywhere (Photo credit: ABA Productions)

I Believe in Unicorns is a tale about Tomas and how he grew to discover the joy, wonder and power of books. While Tomas initially hated reading, dreaming only of playing in the mountain tops, he found his world expand with books and he began to yearn for more and more stories. This culminates in a huge act of bravery that impacts the entire town.

This show was quite unlike other children’s shows I’ve seen before. Most shows pander to the children’s desire for a spectacle – lots of action, songs and dancing. While this production did feature some very well-placed media projections that were so beautiful I felt like I was watching an indie film, the show is really all about good storytelling. A one-woman show, Danyah Miller brings the audience into layer after layer of stories. It’s a bit Inception-like. We start off straightaway immersed in a story. We are members of the town and are attending the re-opening of the town library. Then into the story of Tomas. The story Tomas read. Back out to the story of the Unicorn Lady’s special book. Into the story of the town during the war. Back to the re-opening ceremony. Into the story of the Unicorns.

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The art of storytelling (Photo credit: ABA Productions)

It’s this aspect of quiet, deliberate storytelling that makes the show suitable for older kids who are better able to listen and follow the story. Both my boys were initially wondering when the songs/dance – the action basically – would start. Later I noticed that my 7 year old was still following most of the story, but the 5 year old was not always keeping up. Later I likened the show to a ‘bigger boy’ book that has little, or no, pictures. It’s not so much about showing you a spectacle, it’s about the spectacle in your head, in your imagination. This they understood. Some of their favourite books are wordy with almost no illustrations. The best images are in your head. I’ve never watched a children’s show that quite brought this out so well.

7th August 2014. London, UK. Wizard Presents opens I Believe in Unicorns at Vaudeville Theatre.

Layer upon layer of stories (Photo credit: ABA Productions)

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Pop up books (Photo credit: ABA Productions)

It is a poignant story. At times I sat just consumed by the story, waiting for Danyah to tell me the next line. Feeling the sorrow of the destruction faced by the town and the library. It’s almost not a children’s story, really. It’s not an adult’s story either. It’s a story to be shared by both.

It’s no wonder this show won the Argus Angel Award for Artistic Excellence at the Brighton Festival. Danyah was amazing, pacing the story, working the props, and bringing out the characters.

It ends with the tale of the Unicorns. I may not believe in them still, but I certainly left believing in the power of books and of good storytelling!

KidsFest 2016 is still on with 2 more shows to go – Little Red Riding Hood and Aliens Love Underpants. You can get your tickets from SISTIC. KidsFest 2016 ends on 14 Feb, so hurry!

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Disclaimer: We were offered four complementary tickets for the show. All opinions are my own. 

 

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