Perfectly timed for the kid’s summer holidays, Danyah Miller makes a welcome return to London’s West End with her highly acclaimed production of I Believe in Unicorns.
This spellbinding interactive one woman show, which lasts just under an hour (without an interval), celebrates everything that libraries offer towards widening children’s literary creativity. It will be the third summer season Miller has performed I Believe in Unicorns in the West End, which has been seen by 80,000 people worldwide.
I Believe in Unicorns is based on the bestselling children’s book of the same name, by Michael Morpurgo. It tells the tale of Tomas, an 8-year-old boy who, despite hating reading and school, gets captivated by stories told by the librarian, or ‘the Unicorn Lady,’ in his local library. The unicorn references the librarian’s favourite sculpture which she holds while telling her stories.
Tomas unexpectedly discovers that books can change his life by stirring his imagination, and also give him unexpected bravery.
Not all the tales in Morpurgo’s I Believe in Unicorns are fluffy, and darkness is represented several times with the burning of books, and the defiance of this helps Tomas and his community find resilience in the face of war.
At first sight the stage doesn’t seem much at first. It’s just stacks of books, bookended by two rickety wooden ladders. However, as the stories unfold, Kate Bunce’s ingenious set design makes the books come to life with lots of captivating surprises.
Like a conjurer Miller manifests chocolates from one book, and from another pours real milk from its pages into a paper cone. More stories emerge from the books as she enticingly brings out kites, paper children and exquisite models of lighted houses from the pages.
It’s an immense juggling act, and her books begin to feel like Russian Matryoshka dolls, as Miller seems to endlessly pull smaller books out of bigger books, until they are the size of a thumbnail.
The Unicorn Lady always talks directly to her young audience, and they are delighted as she gets them to shout the name of a person, a place and an object, and creates a brand new story from scratch for them. Young and old alike hang onto Miller’s every word as she artfully tells stories that are hidden within stories, within further stories.
I Believe in Unicorns is a beautifully crafted show that is utterly engaging from beginning to end. It makes one yearn back to a time in childhood, when all fairy tales seemed believable.