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Children's shows - reviews

I Believe in Unicorns

I Believe in Unicorns

Feeling part of the I Believe in Unicorns set on a cushion at the front

Trestle Arts Base, St Albans
26 October 2014, 4pm

I Believe in Unicorns is quite simply a magical telling of Michael Morpurgo’s essentially pretty dark tale.

But the delightful way the Wizard Presents company tells it and the hopeful ending makes you leave feeling uplifted with a child who was so amazed by its inventiveness that she did not fidget for a whole hour!

The story centres on eight-year-old Tomas who hates school, books and stories, preferring instead to run in the hills but when forced to visit the library, he stops to listen to magical tales that the Unicorn Lady spins.

He is so drawn in that when the war in Europe comes to his village he tries to save as many books as possible from the burning library. Does he succeed? I won’t spoil it but the message that stories can transform lives is a good one!

Kate Bunce’s set is simple. Piles of books and a couple of library ladders. But what they turn into under Dani Parr’s superb direction is a neverending source of wonder for all ages.

When the publicity blurb says something like there’s more in the pages of the books than stories, you think yeah right – emotive copywriting – you don’t actually think it’s true – but in this case it quite literally is.

As each is opened up, you find they hold all manner of surprises from delicate village houses with glistening lights to rope, golden eggs, ladders, kites – all to illustrate the story and probably a metaphor for how the magic you find in books can surprise and entertain.

All the props are expertly handled by performer and skilled storyteller Danyah Miller – goodness knows how she remembered where everything was! But wondering where the next prop was coming from kept not just the children on tenterhooks but the adults too.

At one point she pours real milk from the pages and then EATS the paper.

Other favourite sequences included Miller pulling a kite from one book to another and an amazing Russian dolls-style set of books where she ends up with the tiniest of tomes.

There is audience interation from the start when Miller asks about your favourite children’s books as you wait for the show to start.

She also asks for names to help the story along before the whole audience joins in with the book saving when the children sitting on cushions at the front feel truly part of the show.

I can’t lie – there are some children’s shows I have endured for the sake of my daughter – but there are others we really enjoy as a family and can discuss afterwards with equal enthusiasm.

This utterly charming, beautiful and quite brilliant production is one of them.

V’s verdict (as dictated by V aged 4)

I liked the way the unicorn transformed itself into a swordfish – it looked a bit like a swordfish anyway. I liked how we watched a movie about somebody running in the mountains and I liked the way she had paper houses which died when the fire came. I liked the way we they made the ark and I really, really loved passing the books around.

For more dates visit the Wizard Presents website.

Run time: 50 minutes with no interval.

Age range: The age suggestion is 5 plus and I think this is about right, although at 4.5, V was fine.

Other stuff: A free programme. Yay! Plus children who bring a book to the show to be part of the set which they can swap for a different one afterwards. A lovely idea.

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