13 Feb - 15 Mar 2015 For ages 8+

A Unicorn production

Britain's Best Recruiting Sergeant

What does it take to be a man?

  • By Joy Wilkinson
  • Directed by Lee Lyford

What does it take to be a man?

★★★★ Time Out, Exeunt, South London Press, TheatreBubble, Everything Theatre

'My favourite bit was where she pretended to be every part in a movie she made, it’s really funny.  Enjoy another fabulous play by the Unicorn theatre!' Lia Sumners, audience member

A feisty, song-filled and touching look at the real-life story of Vesta Tilley. We follow Little Tilley as she takes her first steps onto the iconic music hall stage with her father, hones her own act and then goes it alone in order to become Vesta Tilley - Britain's Best Recruiting Sergeant; a shining star of the music hall whose much-loved act as a male impersonator makes her world-famous.    

War breaks out and Vesta supports the cause by using her popular act to recruit soldiers to fight for king and country, but has she used her stardom for good? And is winning the most important thing?

The Unicorn commemorates the centenary of World War One with this musical production, specially created for family audiences.

More info

Set and Costume designed by Hayley Grindle

Lighting designed by Joshua Carr

Music composed by Tarek Merchant

Sound designed by Edward Lewis

Cast: Emily Wachter, Caleb Frederick, Tom Espiner and Mia Soteriou

'Children of Britain: Do Your Duty. The Unicorn Needs You! Actually, no: You Need The Unicorn.' ★★★★

Time Out

'It’s an adults’ story, told for children: a refreshing reversal worthy of the “dark fairytales” which sell children’s stories to adults.' ★★★★

Exeunt Magazine

'excitement and exhilaration from start to finish' ★★★★

Everything Theatre

'The cast.... are fabulous, as is Lee Lyford's direction' ★★★★

South London Press

'ingenious and stylish'


'a great double act from Tom Espiner as Tilley’s dad… and Emily Wachter, who is very striking indeed as the young Vesta.’

The Guardian

'A crisp, entertaining show for children that approaches the first world war from a novel angle'

Financial Times

'Emily Wachter is engaging as Tilley, charming and ambitious'

The Stage

‘The children were visibly rapt… It’s a simple piece, but it does as much in an hour as many longer ones.’

Libby Purves, TheatreCat

'a serious play...embedded in rich entertainment that is great fun'

British Theatre Guide

'one moment the audience is laughing, the next singing along to a wartime song they recognise and the next minute there isn’t a pin drop to be heard.'

Curious Mum

Visit 1914.org to view other centenary events and resources from across the globe.

For schools (Suitable for years 3-6)

Tickets are £10 with every eleventh ticket free. Contact our Box Office team on 020 7645 0560 or fill out a booking form.

There is a Teacher Resource Pack available to download here. You can also book a pre-show workshop to take place in your school (£120 per class). Contact schools@unicorntheatre.com for more info and to book.


0 / 0
Go back to the show
  • An insight into the production:

  • In the rehearsal studio

    Photos by Matthew Hargreaves