Gotta love a unicorn. They’re just so horny and precious and long-maned. I Believe in Unicorns isn’t totally devoted to the creatures, but the story does every now and again return to a lovely wooden carving of one ‘made’ by the narrator’s (Danyah Miller) ‘father’.
The setting is a library with a stream of books strewn around. Miller appears jovially in the centre of it all and remains there until the show’s end. She speaks to the mostly young audience personally and confidently, referring to a gentleman in the front row as the mayor who has come to see the grand reopening of a town’s library. Why is it being reopened? The one hour show illustrates why with passion and sadness, but most of all with some extremely creative and perfectly child- and adult-friendly set pieces (Katie Bunce). Pages are pulled out of books like a chain, projections are played on umbrellas and Miller pours milk from one particular text, much to the disgust of her rapt audience. Fantastic highlights include some hidden chocolate in a book (JEALOUS) and a Russian Doll-esque sequence, which sees Miller pull books one from another, until only one almost invisible miraculously small one remains. “Harry Potter”, she claims.
There’s wonder and a lovely calmness about I Believe in Unicorns. The story is relayed beautifully and Miller is totally at ease with the audience participation (don’t worry, the most you’d have to do is shout a bit or use a stop-watch). She is always on point; she is sharp and funny and much like your favourite substitute teacher at primary school, who all but breaks your heart when she leaves.
There’s nothing ground-breaking here or even particularly phenomenal, but it is so very clever and Miller is simply fantastic. Adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s (War Horse) best-selling children’s story, she, alongside a team of others, have devised this whole show. It’s beautiful to see such emphasis on reading and books as physical entities, rather than within a piece of technology. Relating to the Second World War and the volume of propaganda so evidently demonstrated, I Believe in Unicorns is also thought-provoking.
Probably best seeing with a young ‘un, as it is catered more towards the under 10s, there are still moments of glorious nostalgia back to when imagination got you through your childhood rather than an iPad. Prior to going, I recommend thinking of the most obscure animal you can; one that a small child would never even dream of.
I Believe in Unicorns is playing at the Vaudeville Theatre until 30 August. For more information and tickets, see the Nimax Theatres website. Photo: Wizard Presents.