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News

Find out the latest news from behind the scenes at the Unicorn!

 

OPEN AUDITIONS! We’re looking for singers, musicians and performers

 

WE ARE HOLDING OPEN AUDITIONS ON SATURDAY 1 JULY.

Are you aged 14-21? 

Are you a singer or a musician?
Do you live in London?  
 
We’re looking for musicians, singers and performers to join performance artist Kim Noble, director Pol Heyvaert and musician Jakob Ampe to create and perform a new piece called Wild Life FM in our 2017/18 season: an honest, raw exposition of what it’s like being young today.    

The piece will be developed and devised using the skills and lives of you, the cast. Send us a short video example of your work by 23 June 2017 and we’ll be holding auditions in July. Tell us the meaning of music in your life and help us create the antidote to the current talent show culture. Performers will earn £1,000. 

This show is not going to be what you expect. It’s not a play. It’s not a gig. It’s also both those things.   

Performer fee (payment to you): £1,000
Rehearsals: 4 December 2017– 11 January 2018 
Performances: 12 – 20 January 2018   

A collaboration between arts centre CAMPO (Before Your very Eyes, Next Day, Five Easy Pieces), Unicorn Theatre London and Norfolk & Norwich Festival.   

In Spring 2016, Pol Heyvaert, Kim Noble and Jakob Ampe and ten young singer-songwriters aged 15 – 22 from across Norfolk created Wild Life, a performance commissioned by the Norfolk Norwich festival. Developed organically from the lives of the performers, the songs that they write and what science tells us about how teenagers’ brains work, this theatre piece uses original music and everyday sound bites as a backdrop to expose the stark truths about being young in 2016, and about the complex teenager’s mind and the influence of (mainly sad) music.  

“Wild Life is genre-defying, boundary-busting and the most innovative work I have seen so far this year. (…) In a refreshing, amusing and fun concert like no other they present a narrative about making a show about themselves and in doing so perform their reflective, angry, joyful and original songs about their young adult lives in the contemporary world.”
Eastern Daily, 20 May 2016  

Wild Life
was the catalyst for a deeper conversation between Pol Heyvaert and Kim Noble, it was as if this creation exposed a much bigger potential, which both Pol and Kim are now ready to tackle.
 

In 2017-2018 WILD LIFE FM will be created, building on the heritage of Wild Life, in a Unicorn Theatre and CAMPO collaboration. Funny, beautiful, angry and painfully honest, Wild Life FM will explore the lives of young people and the universal experience of how music makes you feel – all within the frame of a live radio show, created for a live (theatre) audience. 

The result will be a participative theatre production that will be adapted to each city and context it’ll be presented: local teenagers on stage mixed with some teens from the previous show (Norfolk, London, Gent, … ).

Kim Noble will explore the worrying aspects of teenagehood with them. Jakob Ampe will work with them on music. Pol Heyvaert directs.
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A Statement from London’s Southbank and Bankside Cultural Organisations

 

We have all been shocked and saddened by the terrible events at London Bridge and Borough Market on Saturday night.

Our hearts go out to the families, friends and loved ones of the victims, and to all of those affected by this terrible attack.

As representatives of the cultural venues in the area, we are working together to ensure that our venues remain safe, open and welcoming to all. We will continue with our programmes as planned and demonstrate the cultural sector's spirit, strength and ability to unite people of all backgrounds.

London is a city defined by its culture. We all intend to play our part in continuing to build and share this culture, and to welcome visitors from the city and the world to our creative events and spaces.

Hayward Gallery
National Theatre
Menier Chocolate Factory
Rambert 
Shakespeare’s Globe
Siobhan Davies Dance
Southbank Centre
Southwark Playhouse
Tate Modern
The Bunker
The Old Vic
The Unicorn Theatre
Young Vic
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The Unicorn's hit show Jeramee, Hartleby and Oooglemore returns before a mini tour in 2017

 

We're very proud to announce that our "stupidly lovely" (Time Out) production of Jeramee, Hartleby and Oooglemore, for ages 3+, will return for a four week run from mid March before it goes on tour to Dublin in April and Brighton in May. We're also very much looking forward to seeing Fionn Gill (who also played Septimus in Septimus Bean and His Amazing Machine in 2016) return to play Oooglemore and to welcome newcomers Jude Owusu as Jeramee and Lotte Tickner as Hartleby.


The Unicorn Theatre is 70 this year and this is a real moment to celebrate Unicorn founder Caryl Jenner’s passion that 'the best of theatre for children should be judged on the same high standards of writing, directing, acting and design as the best of adult theatre'. Our Artistic Director Purni Morell said ‘Jeramee, Hartleby and Oooglemore in particular is a show that truly demonstrates the Unicorn’s commitment to creating the very best, and to experimenting with what is possible.’

Directed by the ever-brilliant Tim Crouch (I Malvolio, An Oak Tree) and written by the exceptionally talented Gary Owen (Iphigenia in Splott, National Theatre; Violence and Son, Royal Court), Jeramee, Hartleby and Oooglemore is an impeccable and utterly delightful piece of theatre. See it if you can, wherever you can.

Unicorn Theatre: Sun 12 Mar – Sun 9 Apr 2017  
The Ark, Dublin: Wed 12 – Wed 26 Apr 2017
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A first: A Unicorn play in Jordan

 

‘International cultural exchange is good for everyone who comes into contact with it. At the Unicorn we see ourselves as the flagship for theatre for young audiences in the UK and being based in London – a culturally diverse city with people from all over the world – we take our responsibility to connect people from across the globe very seriously.’
Purni Morell, Artistic Director

In the summer of 2015 our Artistic Director, Purni Morell, was invited to the Haya Cultural Centre – the first arts centre in Jordan just for children – to share her knowledge of creating theatre for young people. As a result of these conversations, one of our regular directors, Sarah Argent, visited Amman, with the support of the British Council, to work with local actors and create a new staging of our production Seesaw for ages 2+ for HCC’s international theatre festival.

Seesaw (written by Stewart Melton and opened by Sarah at the Unicorn in 2014) is set in a sandpit and is about two children working out how to be themselves and how to be with other people. The play explores emotions and feelings common to all children no matter where they live or what language they speak. Working with local actors and technicians through an Arabic language translator, Sarah directed the show over a few weeks.  It’s now ready and opened on 17 Nov.  It will then become part of the centre’s regular repertoire, playing to local Jordanian children for seasons to come. Sarah Argent said:  

‘This was my first time in the Middle East and it is thrilling to see how Stewart Melton's beautiful play will go down with audiences of children and families here in Jordan. It was fascinating how Arabic-speaking actors interpreted the roles of Girl and Boy and each rehearsal day was a delight and a challenge. I am very proud of the end result.'
Other work in this year’s festival includes A Mano from Spain (which also played at the Unicorn last year). The festival closes on 20 November with a run of Seesaw performances which we hope will go down there as well as they did with our London audiences…
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Theatres urge Government to honour commitment to refugee children

 

The Unicorn Theatre is one of 21 UK theatre companies that are urging the Government to honour its commitment to refugee children with legal right to enter the UK.

On 6 October 2016, 21 theatre companies across the UK wrote to the immigration minister Robert Goodwill to urge the Government to honour its legal commitments under the Immigration Act 2016. They particularly urge the minister to speed up the process by which those vulnerable young people currently living at the soon to be dismantled Calais refugee camp who are legally entitled to join their families in the UK can do so.

Though fully aware that a visit to the theatre will not be a priority for these vulnerable young people, the theatre companies are indicating their support for these children and the organisations attempting to protect them by offering the children and their families tickets to a show free of charge.

Those taking part are:  Battersea Arts Centre, Bush Theatre, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Chichester Festival Theatre, Colin Callender (Playground Entertainment), Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, Lyric Hammersmith, The National Theatre, Nuffield Southampton, The Old Vic, Royal Court Theatre, Royal Exchange Manchester, Royal Opera House, Sadler’s Wells, Soho Theatre, Sonia Friedman Productions, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Unicorn Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Young Vic.

This is our joint statement:

“We understand that there are currently 1022 unaccompanied young children living alone in the ‘Jungle’ refugee and migrant camp in Calais. [1] 

Around half [2] of these children have the legal right to be reunited with their families in the UK under the terms of the Immigration Act 2016.

As the authorities prepare for the camp’s demolition in the next three weeks, we urge the British Government to honour the legal commitment it has made to protect these children, to speed up the legal process in view of the impending eviction and to do everything it can to ensure the protection of all unaccompanied children living in Calais before the demolition begins. 

We know that, on their hoped for arrival in the UK, a visit to the theatre will not be the most urgent of these children’s needs. Nonetheless we will all be delighted to welcome them and their families into our theatres across the country and to offer them seats to a show free of charge in the belief that this is one small expression of the desire of millions of UK citizens to do whatever they can to welcome these vulnerable young people in a generous and open-hearted way.”

[1] Help Refugees/L’Auberge des Migrants Census Report, September 2016
[2] Ibid
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Call out for child performers for two Unicorn shows

 

Auditions are now closed, thank you to everyone who expressed an interest.

We are looking for child performers to take part in two Unicorn shows in our new 2016 / 2017 season - Adler and Gibb (directed by Tim Crouch) and Double Double Act (made in association with Made in China).


Double Double Act
We need four children, two girls, two boys aged 8 or 9 in June 2017 who are adventurous, confident, and curious and are ready to try something new. We need children who like to play, who are talkative and subversive, who will delight in trapping, tricking and winning against adults, and who can be very mature but also delight in nonsense and absurdity. Double Double Act is on at the Unicorn from 20 Jun - 9 Jul 2017.

Find out more about the show here: /Double%20Double%20Act 

Audition workshop July 23rd and 24th July 2016

Adler and Gibb
Tim Crouch and the creative team are looking for local girls aged 8-9 years to participate in the live performances of Adler and Gibb at the Unicorn (30 Aug - 3 Sep). Girls do not need to be available for all performances. 

Find out more about the show here: /AdlerAndGibb 

The selected child must be available to attend a 1 day meeting and rehearsal with Tim Crouch and the cast at Queen Mary University of London in July - the date and time will be confirmed.
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JOIN OUR PARENT AMBASSADOR SCHEME - FREE EVENT 29 JUNE, 7 - 9PM

 

Do you love coming to the Unicorn with your family? Join our Parent Ambassador scheme and get closer to the action! 


We are looking for enthusiastic, creative and confident parents to join our team of Parent Ambassadors. As an Ambassador, you will be invited to exclusive events at the Unicorn, receive free tickets and offers and be part of a much-valued team. We will ask you to share your vision and ideas on our work and help us by spreading the word to other families. 
To find out more about becoming an Ambassador, please join us at our Summer Event on Wednesday 29 June, 7 - 9pm.

Hear from special guest speakers such as Matthew Robins, the man behind our unique adaptation of Ted Hughes' The Iron Man coming up in 2017, and find out more about the making of our 5-star smash hit show, Baddies: the Musical.  This will be a great opportunity to meet other ambassadors and members of the Unicorn team.

There will be drinks and a light picnic-style dinner and we'll give you lots of information and materials to take away.

Please RSVP by emailing Jane.dodson@unicorntheatre.com by Monday 27 June and let me know how many places you would like.

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COULD YOUR BABY STAR IN OUR PHOTOSHOOT?

 

We are on the lookout for a baby to take part in a photoshoot for a show in our new season. Think you can help? Full details below: 

We're seeking: A baby aged between 8 – 14 months
When: Sat 21 May, late morning for approx 2hrs
Where: studio in Forest Hill (address to follow)

If you would like to take part, please send us your contact details and a recent baby photo to marketing@unicorntheatre.com by Thu 19 May. Travel expenses will be covered and we will provide refreshments on the day. As a thank you for taking part, you’ll receive 2 free tickets for a show in our new season. 
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Disabled Access Day 12 March 2016

 

As it is Disabled Access Day on Saturday 12 March, we wanted to tell you more about how the Unicorn Theatre is an access-friendly venue. When it comes to making theatre for everyone, we’re definitely pioneers in finding new, engaging ways to get everyone involved. We pride ourselves on ensuring that the theatre is not only accessible to our audience members but to also provide an accessible working environment.

We spoke to Sair Smith, Events Producer at the Unicorn who plays a key part in managing accessible performances and is also responsible for creating our Usher+ scheme

In what ways is the Unicorn Theatre access-friendly? 
SS: At the Unicorn we strive to offer shows that are accessible to everyone and we work hard to ensure that we offer specific performances with additional support for access patrons every season. We currently offer Relaxed Performances, Live Audio Described performances that include a pre show Touch-Tour, Live Captioned performances, Integrated Sign Language performances and we always identify shows that are Deaf Friendly [access page link]. 

We are especially proud of our Relaxed and Audio Described performances as we have a role within the Front of House department called an Access Assistant who acts as a personal usher to any access patrons that would like some additional support or guidance. Our Front of House team itself is also Access-Friendly thanks to our Usher+ scheme. 

Full details of our access provisions are here

What is Usher+?
We have several ushers with additional needs working within our Front of House (FoH) team. The Usher+ scheme is an in-house support system for those ushers. 

How does Usher+ work? 

SS: Our FoH ushers have received additional training and guidance to allow them to support ushers on the scheme and form a buddy system. These pairs work together during the same shifts and have pre and post shift meetings.  During these meetings, they discuss the responsibilities of the day and complete a log about aims for the shift or reminders from a previous shift and how the shift went with discussions around potential areas of improvement. Both ushers have separate responsibilities and the support usher does not shadow or follow, they are just there as back-up if the usher needs them at any point.  We have found that this hands off approach really helps to develop a sense of confidence for the usher. 

What a brilliant process! How did Usher+ come about? 
SS: A few years ago we employed an usher that came to us through an Access to Work company who needed a support worker to chaperone them during the journey to work and the shift itself. We found that the support worker was preventing the usher from feeling part of the team and that the support worker wasn’t actually able to assist with shift responsibilities as they didn’t work for us. I decided to bring that role in-house so that the person supporting knew the building, the roles and the usher they were assisting. It made a huge difference almost immediately and the team really bonded.  



How many Ushers do you employ under the scheme? 

SS: We currently have seven ushers with additional needs on the team and four of them are supported by the Usher+ scheme. 

What are the outcomes of the scheme?
SS: A happy and confident Front of House team that can provide the best possible customer service to our wide range of audience members. 

How has the scheme evolved since you started it?
SS: The usher who came to us with the external support worker is still working within the team but no longer needs a support usher. The usher was part of the scheme for two years and now feels confident enough to work the various roles within the team without the extra support. This usher has never worked anywhere without support before and we are extremely proud of their journey with us. Some of the ushers on the scheme will always be on the scheme so we don’t set out with this goal in mind but when it happens it’s a huge achievement for everyone involved.

What has the feedback on Usher+ been so far?
SS: We always receive great feedback from the families of the ushers with additional needs about the boost in their confidence and independence quite early on in the process. We also hear from members of the public and they observe and appreciate that the team is very diverse and praise us for that. The team feedback regularly and love the system we’ve created. We wouldn’t be who we are without this system and its participants.

What sort of challenges does the scheme present?   
SS: Due to the nature of the scheme it does rely on ushers who are willing to receive the additional training and then to be willing to support their team mates on a daily basis both on shift and sometimes in a pastoral way too. Luckily we have a great team and that hasn’t ever been an issue. 
 
What aspect of the scheme are you most proud of? 
SS: The daily teamwork and service the group achieve by working and supporting each other. We are particularly proud of the success stories and the real difference that the scheme has made to those that participate in it. 

What advice would you give to those who may want to apply?
SS: Keep an eye on the jobs page on the Unicorn website! 

What advice would you give to other venues who may want to start something like? 
SS: Just do it! It’s not difficult to set up and there is funding out there to help. Your team will thank you for it.
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My Father, Odysseus, Interview with Timberlake Wertenbaker

 

Timberlake grew up in the Basque country near Saint-Jean-de-Luz. She was Arts Council writer in residence 1983 and Resident Writer at The Royal Court Theatre 1985. She is the recipient of numerous awards including an Olivier Award and the 1990 New York Drama Critics Award for Our Country’s Good and a Writers’ Guild Award for Three Birds Alighting on a Field. Her productions include: Jefferson’s Garden, The Ant and the Cicada and The Love of the Nightingale (RSC); Jules et Jim, Our Ajax (Southwark Playhouse); The Line (The Arcola Theatre); Galileo’s Daughter (Theatre Royal, Bath); Credible Witness, The Break of the Day, Three Birds Alighting on a Field, Our Country’s Good, The Grace of Mary Traverse, Abel’s Sister (Royal Court Theatre); Ash Girl (Birmingham Rep); After Darwin (Hampstead Theatre).



1) Why did you want to write a version of The Odyssey now? What are the main themes or questions you are exploring?
Purni (Artistic Director of the Unicorn) suggested it to me and I thought it would be interesting because there are a lot of children and young people whose fathers are fighting somewhere on one side or another, for one thing or another. The first four books, called the Telemachus Books, and the last few books deal with Telemachus much more than Odysseus and are very much about a boy coming of age and having to face all this, being without a father and finding his father again. All of that interested me and it seemed to me that it was a contemporary story as much as it was a story set in ancient Greece.

Odysseus has all these adventures and he’s also missing for twenty years. So it’s the missing father and the father himself who is facing his own monsters difficulties and a son and a mother left at home not knowing where he is. This is so common now.

2) How much is it a play about war?
Odysseus has gone to war for ten years and has then been missing for ten years, but it’s not specifically a war play, it’s about absence in all ways because Odysseus himself isn’t quite sure who he is or what’s happened to him and he’s always telling stories – well I don’t want to get too much into that because that is my interpretation. It’s about absence and longing and the search for the father
and the father not knowing what’s happened to his son. It’s about the consequences of war, let’s put it that way.

3) In writing the play for the Unicorn, which is primarily for a young audience aged 11 and above, how has that affected the way you approach the writing?
It hasn’t really. I have written The Ash Girl for a younger audience and as far as I’m concerned a younger audience is equally intelligent, equally able to enjoy theatre and I’m just writing what I enjoy writing really and that’s it. If it’s completely impossible then someone will tell me, but I completely trust that age group, well I trust any age group really. I think children are completely capable of absorbing anything and if they don’t want to absorb it then they don’t. I used to take my daughter when she was aged four to Shakespeare and she was completely interested. She didn’t get everything obviously but you know. I’m simply trying to not make a big thing of that, well obviously two of the characters are young, but that’s about it. 

4) Can you talk a little about your process of writing? In particular how you move between Homer’s Odyssey and your play My Father, Odysseus – the process of adaptation.
I think it would be a bit misleading to call it an adaptation of The Odyssey, it isn’t really an adaptation, it’s a kind of reaction to The Odyssey, a parallel universe really. Obviously I’m very aware of and I know The Odyssey and I’ve been reading it again and I’m just trying to be really free and let it come in. I think it permeates in the way that all these stories permeate - you’re always influenced by something and in this case it’s obviously a very strong influence because it’s Homer and powerful stuff. I’ve used the story, but it’s very free and it just isn’t an adaptation.

The Odyssey is obviously the starting point and I use quite a bit of it, but I think this play is set in no time, because in theatre, it can be so many times at once. That’s what interests me about the theatre. And these stories are told in so many different ways and mean different things at different times.

5) How many drafts would you generally do?
I do a lot of drafts, it depends how it goes, sometimes you’re closer to a final draft and sometimes you have to do quite a lot of work. I tend to try and get a sense of the whole thing and then go back to it and then find I’ve made a complete mess of it and start again. 

I think different writers work in different ways, I think some writers do that in their heads but I tend to do it on paper; I work through a lot of drafts. What I’ve noticed when I look back on things is there will be bits that will really stay the same throughout and there are bits that change. It’s a cliché that writing is re-writing and I think that’s very much the case for me. I mean playwriting is a kind of excavation, you know looking for something. It’s like going into an underground city; you hit a bit and then you hit a bit somewhere else and then eventually you’ve actually got what you were looking for. Sometimes you hit in a more exact spot and sometimes you’re really quite far away and it takes a while to get it. You don’t know until the end, until you’ve got this city, then you know what’s going on. 

6) As you are writing do you imagine how it will look and feel on the stage, or is there a big gap between what you present to the director and what is then realised?

It’s very difficult because I sort of go between the actual thing that I’m imagining, let’s say a Greek island somewhere, or a place in London, or it could be the same thing at once. Then also the sense of the stage. I never write stage directions, or very, very basic ones. But I do imagine it, but I also like to leave it to the director to find a way through it and sometimes I don’t want to be prescriptive. I mean it’s interesting on stage, people come on and people go off and that’s really terribly interesting and that’s what I work on; when they come on, when they come off, what they’re doing. So I do imagine them on the stage. But beyond that I don’t imagine very much.

I might give some possible stage directions, I don’t mean stage directions, instructions, if people are going to do something on stage then I’ll suggest it, but if a director decides to do it in a different way that’s fine.

7) Can you tell us about the form of your play, are you writing in verse?
I wouldn’t call it verse. It has rhythm and it’s not naturalistic, it’s not naturalistic dialogue. I break up lines on the page quite a lot, I want that line to have a half breath, so when you look at it it looks quite broken and that’s really an indication for the actors to have a little moment, just for them to see that there’s a slightly different thought. It’s to give the actors a sense of the rhythm and the pace of it. But that’s it. The last thing I would call myself is a poet. But I don’t write naturalistic dialogue either.

8) What do you hope the audience will take away?
I think we need stories and I hope they will just take away the sense of, an interest in, the story and if they then want to go back to Homer then that will be great. It would be lovely if the people who came to see it got an interest in The Odyssey itself I mean I remember coming across it, I don’t remember what kind of version, at 11 or so and being very interested and taken with it because I didn’t really know much about it. It’s really not for me to say what the audience take away; it’s for me to do the best I can and for them to take away something. 




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