Our empty theatre in photos

We're pleased to be part of Helen Murray's (@helenmurraypix) extraordinary #OurEmptyTheatres project documenting 22 empty theatres across the country at this moment in time.

View more photos on her website.

Unicorn Theatre foyer. Photo by Helen MurrayUnicorn Theatre view of the Weston stage. Photo by Helen MurrayUnicorn Theatre empty office. Photo by Helen MurrayUnicorn Theatre view from the Weston stage. Photo by Helen Murray

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During these extraordinary times, the Unicorn is responding with a new digital theatre project Unicorn Online - a fresh, innovative approach to making online theatre for young audiences during the building’s closure. Launching with Anansi the Spider Re-spun and streamed in partnership with The Guardian, this unique project brings theatre direct from the homes of the artist to the homes of the audience.

Each week from Sat 30 May, an online story of Anansi – the ultimate mischief-maker and master spinner of yarns – will be streamed for free on the Unicorn’s YouTube channel and The Guardian’s website. The show is aimed at ages 3 to 8 years. Alongside the Anansi episodes, there will be free downloadable activities for teachers and parents and a free online workshop where viewers can learn a song from Anansi, send in a recording and feature in an online Anansi community choir video.

Justin Audibert has shaped three of the most popular stories from his 2019 production – Brother Anansi and Brother Snake, Anansi and The Two Dinners, Anansi and the Pot of Wisdom – specifically for an online audience. Working alongside film company Illuminations and featuring the original cast of Afia Abusham, Sapphire Joy and Juliet Okotie, each scene will be captured by them within their own homes and edited within the current pandemic restrictions, bringing each scene together with a live, spontaneous sense of performance. 

Using the technology available and celebrating the ‘at home’ nature of the filming and editing, the Unicorn aims to deliver a bold, fun and new way to tell stories that spark the imagination. The Unicorn is currently closed to the public but its mission to engage, inspire and entertain young people remains vital.

The theatre hopes to continue to serve audiences through Unicorn Online – its new hub for digital theatre experiences for children. Premiering with this innovative, digital-specific production, the Unicorn aims to support young people through this time of crisis when they are living with more physical rules, social limitations and personal frustrations than many will have ever experienced. The theatre will continue producing more digital projects over this time as a way to reach more young people across the city, as well as across the UK and beyond.

Unicorn Online has been made possible with the generous support of the Backstage Trust and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Anansi the Spider Re-Spun is streamed in partnership with The Guardian.

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For our interactive show with Tim Crouch, I, Cinna (the poet), we asked the audience to write a poem and, if they liked, send it in to be shared online. We had a fantastic amount of poems sent in, and we would like to give a huge thank you to all of the people that were inspired by the show. 

You can view the poems here. 

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Announcing Bailey Lock as our New Executive Director and Joint Chief Executive

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Bailey Lock as our new Executive Director and Joint Chief Executive. Bailey will take up the position in March 2020, succeeding Anneliese Davidsen who is leaving the company after eight years to become Director of Two Temple Place.
Bailey is currently General Manager at the Donmar Warehouse, where she has been since November ‘14.  Prior to that, she was Senior Producer at the Lyric Hammersmith, and Production Assistant at Sonia Friedman Productions, where she was a Stage One Bursary Recipient.
Bailey will continue to build on the Unicorn’s success over the past decade, working alongside Artistic Director Justin Audibert.  She will bring a wealth of expertise to developing new and existing partnerships across the sector, as well as expanding the theatre’s hugely successful national and international collaborations and continuing to build the company’s outstanding reputation for producing bold, inventive, and provocative new work.

Chair of the Unicorn’s Board of Directors, John Langley, said“We would very much like to thank Anneliese for her exceptional stewardship of the Unicorn over the last eight very exciting years, working firstly with Purni Morell and then guiding Justin through his first 18 months. It has been a privilege to work with her and we would all like to wish her the very best in her forthcoming endeavours at Two Temple Place.  We are delighted now to hand the Unicorn on to the shared stewardship of Bailey, working alongside Justin.  Bailey won universal approval from the recruitment panel for her clear-sighted and precise focus, and she brings with her a wealth of knowledge and skills.  She will be a huge asset to the theatre in the coming years.
Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive Justin Audibert, said I am enormously looking forward to leading the team with Bailey, whose wide-ranging theatre management and producing skills will take us forward to the next phase in the Unicorn’s evolution.  We have exciting future plans in the pipeline, and over the coming months I can’t wait for the whole Unicorn team to make them real!”
Bailey Lock said "I’m a huge admirer of the Unicorn and its extraordinary work for children and young people on and off stage. I’m so excited to be joining Justin Audibert and the Unicorn team in delivering this incredibly exciting and important programme."
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The Unicorn Theatre declares a Climate Emergency

At the Unicorn, we try to take responsibility for our choices – for the work on our stages, for our practices and processes, for our effect on the world.  So in recent years, we have worked hard to improve our organisational environmental sustainability. 
But in October 2018, the International Panel on Climate Change reported that we only have 12 years to change how we live, globally.  Extreme weather events are changing the world and destroying lives.
If all of us take fast and drastic action within our own sphere of influence, making changes in our behaviours, we can meet climate goals.  The need to take action is more urgent than ever and here at the Unicorn, we know we need to do more, faster.
The Unicorn joins many other arts and cultural organisations in declaring a Climate Emergency.  We want to commit a response to this global crisis across all areas of our work.
Here are our commitments.
In our own work, we will continue to take environmental action across our building and operations – through our recycling, reusing and repurposing, through our merchandise and café activities, through our productions, and through our choices of energy suppliers and product providers – and we will continue to imagine new and better ways to work.
In our stakeholder and external relationships, we will support our community, our governing bodies, our national and international partners to tackle the emergency, to advocate for change, to speak out for the climate emergency.
In our relationships with our audiences, we will listen to and engage with young people to try to respond to their knowledge, their questions, and their demands.
In the wider community, we will advocate for and celebrate democracy and social justice wherever we can across political parties, civic institutions, points of view, and communities large and small.
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“It’s vital to me that everyone can visit us regardless of financial circumstance. Young people have a right to experience great art of the same quality that we adults seek for ourselves.”

- Justin Audibert, Artistic Director

Justin Audibert’s first season at the Unicorn as Artistic Director includes an incredible mix of playwrights, artists and theatre companies. Justin is passionate about ensuring the work on our stages is experienced by the widest possible range of young people. Our building is a creative environment in which young people can be challenged, engaged and inspired and we want to share it with everyone.
We are deeply committed to ensuring that young people and their families feel welcome, and to making our theatre accessible to all. Thanks to generous funding from The McGrath Trust we subsidise thousands of school and community visits every year.
We have committed to maintaining our £10 tickets for state-funded schools for the eighth consecutive year, and offer as much support as possible to non-fee paying schools who might be unable to visit us for financial reasons. As brutal cuts are affecting creative learning opportunities in schools across the country, we know that this work is more important than ever. We also stretch beyond education to defend children’s right to a creative and fulfilling life and have recently launched REACH – a major new community programme which welcomes children from London's most deprived communities into the Unicorn to experience the joys of a live theatre experience. 
In order to reach more young people, we are launching PASS IT ON…AND ON… a new campaign that enables us to give more free tickets than ever before to those who need it most. The premise is simple but the impact will be massive.
In 2017 we launched our original PASS IT ON campaign enabling audiences to donate £10 so that another child could have the same great experience at the Unicorn as them. This has been hugely successful. But we asked ourselves if there was a way to make this better, to reach more people? We believe the answer is PASS IT ON…AND ON… our brand new campaign that gives everyone the opportunity to donate £10 per month. This will go straight to giving a child a ticket to the Unicorn. You can learn more about the campaign here.
We already do so much to ensure everyone can visit us and experience great theatre. But of course we want to do more and we are always being asked by audiences, friends and supporters how they can help, how they can do more too.  This is how, and now is the time. 
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"I believe in the power of words because they need no mediation": this National Poetry Day, We Talk To Tim Crouch about his play I, Cinna (the poet).

The poet, Cinna, hardly says a word in Shakespeare’s Julius Ceaser before he is mistaken for someone else and torn to pieces by an angry mob. He’s Shakespeare’s unluckiest character. For National Poetry Day, we spoke to writer and performer, Tim Crouch about his show, I, Cinna (the poet), which plays at the Unicorn in February 2020, and asked what he thought the role of poetry is in young people’s world today. 
I, Cinna (the poet) is set to come to the Unicorn 5 Feb 2020.
Originally written for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2012, and with a filmed version live-streamed to secondary schools across the UK, I, Cinna (the poet) tells the story of Cinna, who, after only 17 lines, is mistaken for another Cinna (Cinna the conspirator) and killed. This is the fifth of a series of plays written by Tim, which re-writes the narrative of Shakespeare’s minor characters. But why does Tim believe these stories need to be told?
“It’s good to change the angle at which we look at the world. It helps us to discover new things. History is written about the leaders, but it’s made by all of us - big and small. It’s good to get the small person’s perspective on the big stories. The powerful can look after themselves. They don’t need our help.
“Young people are often perceived as ‘minor characters’ in the world. But their voice is just as important as anyone else's.
“Dear old Cinna the poet. One short scene - and then he’s killed.  Killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time - and with the wrong name. If anyone needs their story expanding, it’s Cinna. It barely starts before it’s finished. In the 21st century, there’d be a campaign for Justice for Cinna! His killers would be found and prosecuted. In a way, I’m doing this for him through writing about him.”
The fact that Shakespeare appointed Cinna’s unfortunate fate to a poet is, for Tim, not a detail to be disregarded:
“In Julius Caesar, Cinna-the-poet’s fate helps us to understand the impact of political events on ordinary people. Cinna is caught up in the public disorder and he is killed by the mob. He could have been any ordinary citizen  - Shakespeare mentions cobblers and carpenters in his play, for example - but Shakespeare chooses to make Cinna a poet. It’s a poet, an artist, who is killed as a consequence of the public unrest. By this simple act of making Cinna a poet, Shakespeare invites us to consider the role of the artist in society. Later in Julius Caesar, another poet appears and argues with Brutus for peace. The question Shakespeare gives Brutus about this second poet is ‘What should the wars do with these jigging fools?’
“I take this question as a starting point for my play - what’s the point of art during major political upheaval? My Cinna says, ‘What use is poetry when the tanks are in the streets?'
 Tim Crouch believes we need to hold on to poetry's power 'in the face of digital media and screens'.
Not only is Cinna a poet himself, but the audience too becomes poets during the show, as they are given paper and pen and encouraged to participate in creating a mass-database of poetry, inspired by Cinna’s story. With this year’s National Poetry Day theme being ‘Truth’, and as slogans and protest increasingly becomes the backdrop for young people’s lives, what does Tim think about the role of poetry today?
“Poetry can get to the heart of where we are and how we feel. It helps us feel the mystery of being alive… We need to hold on to its power - in the face of digital media and screens.  I believe in the power of words because they need no mediation. In I, Cinna (the poet), Cinna says: 'There is nothing that cannot be done or undone with words. Pictures are helpful, but words don't need a camera. Words are also pictures. They can change the world.’
“I’m struck by the power of words in the language of protest - the banners that we see during rallies, particularly climate protest.  These protesters are using words in the same way that poets do - finding an economy and power to deal with complex ideas. They are all poets.”
I, Cinna (the poet) opens at the Unicorn on 5 February for ages 11 – 14.  What is exciting Tim about the show?
“The relationship between the performer and the audience in I, Cinna (the poet) will be a mix of story-teller, writer and good teacher - I hope! I’m very excited to see the writing that is done during the show. We all work together in this show and it feels very fresh and alive. Each performance will be different, each performance will produce something!”
You can find more information and get your tickets here: /ICinna
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We would like to offer you free tickets to the final dress rehearsal of our new showAnansi The Spider, on Tuesday 17 September at 5pm.
Three classic West African and Caribbean tales about the infamous hoaxter spider are bought vividly to life with an immersive set, music and plenty of mischief. You can find more information about the show here.
A photographer will be taking photos of the show. Due to the immersive nature of the set, it is highly likely that audience members will appear in the photos too. These photos will be used for marketing and promotional purposes.
The show is for ages 3 - 7 and is approximately one hour long. Please note that we are looking for families and children of this age in particular.
Tickets will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. Please apply by Monday 16 Sep, 10am. We can offer up to 4 tickets per person. To apply, please email, with the number of tickets you would like and a name for the tickets to be booked under.
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It's the launch of our new future-themed season this Sunday and, this time, we wanted to open with something a little bit different... 
We've teamed up with Leeds-based, theatre mavericks, Slung Low, to create 15 Minutes Live; a one-off radio play-style show responding to the theme of ‘The Future’performed with onstage sound effects, live music and audience interaction. In anticipation of this riotous event, where six writers have created six short plays, we spoke to Slung Low’s Alan Lane as well as some of the writers, to ask them what the future looks like to them, about the role of theatre and what it means to be opening our season with a bang! 
Specialising in making work in unusual spaces, Alan has directed work with Slung Low for the Almeida Theatrethe Barbican and many moreHere’s what he thinks about the future: “The thing that always interests me about the future are the things that we imagine to be the same. We might be talking about a family going to the moon but the family remains the same. There are certain things- about how you talk to your mum or how you feel about school that stay the same even as the future brings in changes. And also the things we think might disappear in the future- the changes we imagine: whether there’ll be theatre in the future, whether we’ll still go to school or just FaceTime!”
Eve Nicol, whose play, 'The Brownie Handbook'is one-of-six plays in 15 Minutes Live, says: It’s great to see young people leading the way in big issues of our day, particularly in environmental campaigning. But is “the kids are alright” attitude just dumping all the responsibility on the upcoming generation? When writing my piece for 15 Minutes Live I thought about what worries me now and what will worry my baby niece when she grows up. What’s the same? What’s different? What will give us both hope and strength to enjoy life together?
For Ken Emson, who has written 'The End', says that theatre has a key role in this: “At the moment the future feels pretty bleak! So I think it's important that theatre tries to bring a bit of joy to audiences. That doesn't mean ignore the world we live in, but at least give an audience a few lines to laugh at! To quote Whitney 'the children are our future'. So writing for the Unicorn, a building with young people at its heart, is pretty important in terms of communicating with them.”

15 Minutes Live is a Pay What You Decide event which, for Alan, is an initiative echoed in all of his work at Slung Low: “Pay What You Decide is a central part of how we do everything as a company; our shows, our college classes, lending our equipment and van - everything. It’s got two important roles. The first is to allow people to explore a role that isn’t a customer - we’re constantly turned into customers nowadays and it’s a belittling role. We are citizens. And that is powerful. And Pay What You Decide is a small part of allowing people to feel like powerful citizens. And secondly, it allows people who don’t already know that theatre is exciting and brilliant to try it out with less risk- theatre feels like a lot of money if you aren’t sure.”
For Nina Segal, writer of 'Archaeology',  no one is tackling accessibility in theatre quite like Slung Low: “Every time I read about what they’re up to, I just think – yes!  That’s what we should be doing!  I feel very strongly that theatre buildings should be interrogating the role they play in their community as much as possible – especially if they’re publicly-funded.  It’s not just the work on the important stages – it’s the work of the whole organisation and the ways that work takes place.  I would love for theatre buildings to be thought of more as public space – as a community resource.  If a building puts on a show at 7.30pm each evening but is closed to the public the rest of the time – what else could that space be used for?  If it’s open to the public but requires an expensive purchase at a café or bar to access it – can that really be thought of as public space?
15 Minutes Live has been running for many years in Leeds, above Britain’s oldest working men’s club, but what is it about these radio play-style shows that makes it so popular? Alan: People enjoy the element of watching us make it- the sound effects, the actors with their scripts, it opens up the magic of theatre-making to people and folk seem to enjoy that. And that there are 6 short plays means that there’s always something different and exciting around the corner. They’re all over so quick! And of course, the audience live at the show are parts of the recorded audience’s experience. They can actually hear that audience watching them!
And what is it like for Laurence Dobiesz and Olivia Poulet, who together wrote 'Nuclear Family',  to write in such a way? “The first script that we wrote together which was produced was a radio play (called #blessed). It’s the most enjoyable, freeing medium to write for. You can let your imagination fly, unrestricted by budget or cast numbers. It can also be the most intimate, so there’s scope for everything. And having it performed in front of a live audience will give it a whole new dimension that we can’t anticipate. We can’t wait to hear how the company - and the audience - bring it to life!”
Nina can’t wait to see what the show has in-store: “I’m really excited to see the other writers’ work – to see how they responded to the same provocations and to see what version of the future they’re exploring.  And I’m excited, as always, to spend time at the Unicorn – I’ve always felt it’s where the most exciting work in this city is happening and I’m very happy to be a small part of it.”
Alan: “A fun afternoon with a band, radio plays recorded in front of you, fun and food. What more could you want!”
It seems that whatever the reason for 15 Minutes Live's scorching reputation in Leeds, it’s certainly set to be just as big a success at the Unicorn Theatre.
Find out what else our new season has to offer here. 
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Would you and your child like to be in a new short video about the Unicorn?

We’re looking for a parent/carer and child to be in our new video which highlights our location and the fun things families can do for free in the local area. The video will be 1 minute long and used on social media and our website.

Date & Time: Thu 29 August, 2 - 4.30pm

We're looking to cast a child approx 7 - 12 years old, with one or two parents/carers. 

We're able to offer a free family ticket (up to 4 free tickets) to see a show at the Unicorn (up until June 2020) in return for your time.  

We will film you walking from London Bridge station to the Unicorn, then playing by the fountains and having a picnic in Potters Field park (both are a 2 min walk from the theatre). 

The child will be the primary focus of the filming, and it will be a relaxed, fun and happy couple of hours! The video will also have animation and other footage, so you are likely to appear in approx 30  - 40 seconds of the final film. 

On the day you will be joined by one cameraman with a small hand-held camera, and our Marketing Manager, Jane.

To apply to take part, please email by 10am Tue 27 August. Add your name, email, phone number, age of the child and a picture of the people who would like to be in the shoot. 


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