When Anansi the Spider was first performed at the Unicorn Theatre back in 2019, the world was a completely different place: people could actually attend theatres, and staying constantly two metres away from everyone else seemed like a ludicrous thought. Indeed, that original 2019 production was a critical success, praised in no small part for how the performers interacted both with each other and the audience. Now, faced with the new global realities, the show has returned as Anansi the Spider Re-Spun, bringing the stories from that first iteration to the digital space. In doing so, the show reminds viewers that theatre can not only survive the move online, it can thrive.
Created and directed by Justin Audibert and performed by Afia Abusham, Sapphire Joy, and Juliet Okotie, Anansi the Spider Re-Spun will be released in three weekly instalments: every Saturday, children aged 3-8 (and older) can enjoy a new episode about how the mischievous Anansi tricks, deceives and befuddles his fellow animals, learning an important lesson in the process. This week, the lazy spider learns that if he wants something to eat, then he needs to put in some hard work…!
Visually, formically, and aesthetically, the production is faultless; the infectious energy infused into every aspect of the story allows the performers to transcend the screen, delivering an unbeatably fun and fresh experience. Moreover, the West African and Caribbean aesthetics the stories arise from seep effortlessly into the piece, championing the cultures and welcoming others to engage with them; from the colours to the music to the sensibilities, it radiates pride and inclusivity. Truly, it’s hard to adequately express just how much fun the episode is – at only 15 minutes long, it begs the viewer to watch it again and again.
Furthermore, beyond the tale itself, Audibert is perhaps leading the push in adapting to current circumstances. As opposed to some other virtual productions available, it’s clear this piece was crafted with the digital medium specifically in mind, adapting and excelling in this new socially-distant theatrical world. Edited by Todd MacDonald, the episode blends strong visuals, hilarious cuts, and dynamic pacing together perfectly, ensuring that any children watching will be engaged from the get-go. With fantastic productions like this being produced, one can only feel excited about how theatre will continue to adapt to this new medium.
The less spoilt about Re-Spun, the better. Made possible with the generous support of the Illuminations production company, Backstage Trust, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and The Guardian, the production is a treat for children of all ages; please give it a view.
Anansi the Spider Re-Spun, Episode 1: Brother Anansi and Brother Snake is available on YouTube until 20th June. For more information visit the Unicorn Theatre website.