Tuesday, July 5

Gulliver’s Travels – Unicorn Theatre

Gulliver’s adventures come to life with the bizarre and delightful production of Gulliver’s Travels playing at the Unicorn Theatre for age 7+. Directed by Jay Woodcock-Stewart, Lulu Raczka’s rendition of Jonathan’s Swift classic brilliantly uses form to share Gulliver’s narrative to a vivacious audience of young people accompanied by adults.

Leah Brotherhood, Mae Munuo (Gulliver), Sam Swann, and Jacoba Williams make an energetic entrance to hip-hop music with a camera and a portable spotlight on a whitewashed stage with multiple tables set at a corner. They set the tone of the play, dancing and celebrating, interacting with the audience, and playing with the camera as their movements are projected on the white backdrop.

Photo: Marc Brenner

The narrative seamlessly begins as the dance party is interrupted by Gulliver’s elder sister who assigns her with a list of chores to fulfil. Gulliver is desperate to escape these chores and her journey to different societies begins. Retaining Swift’s satirical vein, Unicorn’s version fearlessly uses video cameras and projections to portray the diverse worlds of Lilliputians, Brobdingnagians, Laputans, and Houyhnhnms. The tabletops are cleverly used as mini-sets for each city while the performers play multiple characters flawlessly and also support frequent set-changes. A highly inventive production designed by Rosanna Vize, the play skilfully combines cinematic effects with theatre with the video designed by Jack Phelan.

While the fine performances held the audience, the hero of the play is the form. In my opinion, the use of video cameras and projections is a befitting choice to convey this story with an intricately planned-out cinematographic design. Though highly experimental, I also think that it is a risky choice as the frequent transitions often broke the fantasy created so beautifully by the performers.

The highlight of the show was when the Queen of Lilliput asked Gulliver, “Is starting a war stupid?” And the children unanimously responded, “yes.” While the play thoroughly appealed to young people, it had several moments of wisdom and learning to offer to adults. Exploring the themes of family bonding, escapism and day-dreaming, and self-discovery, I would highly recommend Gulliver’s Travels for all ages.

Playing until the 16th April, https://www.unicorntheatre.com/events/gullivers-travels-2022

Reviewer: Khushboo Shah

Reviewed: 16th March 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★