I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS
by Michael Morpurgo adapted by Daniel Jamieson.
Theatre Alibi Tour to 9 May 2015.
Runs 1hr No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 February at The Lowry Salford.
Swims with the tide and treads water elegantly.
Prolific children’s author Michael Morpurgo has provided a string of stories for theatrical adaptation, of which War Horse has become the most startlingly successful. And the one where the theatricality of Handspring Theatre’s vast puppet horse has truly made the story a theatrical event.
Theatre Alibi’s publicity recalls that success with its image of a boy, book in hand, riding a unicorn rampant. And many ingredients of both books make them similar liberal-minded stories for young adults, with family life disturbed by the coming of a war. Here, an initial dislike of books in favour of more active ways to spend a day, and reluctance to enter a library, lead to enthusiastic conversion to reading and awakening of the imagination.
Exeter-based touring company Theatre Alibi thrive on plays that consciously tell stories – generally scripted, or re-scripted, by Daniel Jamieson and directed by Nikki Sved. Their style is clear, uncluttered and gentle, making flexible use of a basic scenic structure. Here, designer Trina Bramman provides a structure with shapes which acquire specific identities for several locations as the story develops.
Actors can almost be seen taking-up a role, but, once begun, characterisation is firm. Then, their business done, an actor quietly moves off as the story moves on. It could be casual but a relaxed yet strong framework is soon established.
There’s little shouting in an Alibi show, part of a style where the audience is being shown, rather than involved in, any emotional surges. This is a reflective piece, well-directed towards its 5-11 audiences. War in the background of the Croatian setting, the surprise of the librarian-storyteller who, in young Tomas’s mind, becomes the Unicorn Lady as she tells her story, point to his disrupted life and the need for security and hope in a young mind.
Alibi’s style accommodates all this. It might be that an hour-long piece from one of the best-known children’s novelists in Britain is an easy choice for the company’s major tour this year, but what they do is expertly handled in the individual style, enhanced by Thomas Johnson’s music, this company has developed.
Tomas: Ben Worth.
Dad/Mr Liban/Pavo: Derek Frood.
Mum/Unicorn Lady: Cerianne Roberts.
Musician: Thomas Johnson.
Director: Nikki Sved.
Designer: Trina Bramman.
Lighting: Dominic Jeffery.
Composer/Musical Director: Thomas Johnson.
12-15 Mar Thu 1.30pm; Fri 10.30am & 1.30pm; Sat 2pm & 5pm; Sun 11am & 2.30pm Polka Theatre Wimbledon 020 8543 4888 www.polkatheatre.com
1-4 Apr Wed 4pm; Thu-Sat 11am & 2pm Oxford Playhouse 01865 305305 www.oxfordplayhouse.com
7-9 Apr Tue 7pm; Wed, Thu 11am & 2.30pm Derby Theatre 01332 593939 www.derbytheatre.co.uk
10-11 Apr Fri 4.30pm; Sat 11am & 2pm Hull Truck Theatre 01482 323638 www.hulltruck.co.uk
14-15 Apr Tue 7.30pm; Wed 2.30pm & 6.30pm Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield 01484 430528 www.thelbt.org
16-18 Apr Thu, Fri 7pm; Sat 2pm Northern Stage Newcastle-upon-Tyne 0191 230 5151 www.northernstage.co.uk
21-22 Apr Tue 6pm; Wed 10.30am & 1.30pm mac Birmingham 0121 446 3232 www.macbirmingham.co.uk
28 Apr-2May Tue 5.30pm; Wed10.30am & 1.30pm; Thu 5.30pm; Fri 10.30am & 7pm; Sat 11.15am & 2.15pm Forum Theatre Malvern 01684 892277 www.malvern-theatres.co.uk
5-9 May Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds 01284 www.theatreroyhal.org