Writer: Margery Williams
Director: Purni Morell
Reviewer: Sarah Setter
Margery William’s heart-warming story The Velveteen Rabbit has been brought to life in a charming production directed by Purni Morell at the Unicorn Theatre in London for children aged 4 and above.
As the show begins the audience is introduced to the three male actors who will tell the story. The Narrator, who also plays multiple characters, the Boy and the Velveteen Rabbit. At first the idea of a fully grown bearded man playing a bunny feels a little odd, but this soon becomes a distant memory as you become engulfed in his quest to be real and get carried along on a wonderful adventure.
James Button’s beautiful design is simple, but effectively facilitates the creative and inventive way in which the tale is told. There are a multitude of stunning moments created in Morell’s direction that are completely enhanced by the use of the set. The most notable being the bed, which also serves as a boat and elephant. The use of costume is also clever, especially for the rabbit, whose change of jacket demonstrates his increasingly shabby appearance, until he ends up on the bonfire at the end covered in Scarlet Fever germs. The giant bonfire that Button has designed creates an extremely striking and slightly distressing image. When the toy eventually becomes real, there is something truly magical about the use of a live rabbit, which really accentuates the poignancy of the moment.
The production is great fun with props, set and actors popping in and out of trap doors in the floor of the stage. There is also a very playful use of space hoppers to create the real rabbits in the story, which is fabulous. Wilkie Branson’s choreography further enhances the show, especially in the scenes where the Boy and rabbit are in bed and while they are plunged in to the sea.
Paul Lloyd does a good job as the Narrator leading the audience through the story and also plays the nanna and skin horse with skill. The audience totally feels the strong bond between the Boy, played by Syrus Lowe and the Velveteen Rabbit played expertly by Christian Roe. Their rôles are physically very demanding as they play and frolic their way through the story, but never once do their energy levels drop.
The Velveteen Rabbit is a completely absorbing piece of theatre that transports the audience to a bygone era and has the children and adults totally transfixed. The show is accompanied by pianist Paul Moylan which further adds to the feeling of being part of a time gone by. It is totally enchanting, charming, magical and brilliant. Take your children to see this marvellous production, you won’t be disappointed!
Runs until 19 April 2014