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Unicorn Theatre presents


The London Eye Mystery


Adapted by Carl Miller from the book by Siobhan Dowd


Directed by Rosamunde Hutt


Unicorn Theatre


6 March – 18 April 2010






A review by James Richards for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Ted, a scruffy schoolboy with unkempt hair twitches nervously in the spotlight. He opens his mouth: “Reasons why I don’t like theatre. Number one…” So begins The London Eye Mystery, a show that sails high above the rest while keeping its feet firmly on the ground.

Although strictly speaking, children’s theatre this adaptation of Siobhan Dowd’s book frequently tackles adult themes with a laudably mature attitude. Our narrator, Ted, suffers from Asperser syndrome, a type of autism. We watch enraptured as he faces his demons in order to find his missing cousin Selim, with the help of his elder sister Kat.

A satisfying mystery lies at the heart of the show; Salim’s seemingly impossible disappearing act from inside one of the London Eye’s viewing capsules, right under the eyes of Ted and his sister, and the subsequent hunt for him. However, the real joy comes from watching Ted’s mostly-functional family fall apart and then pull together in the moment of crisis, and each character’s personal journey to discovery during the emotional storm.

Tantalising clues to Salim's fate are scattered throughout the first act in the shape of familial conflict, a planned upheaval to New York and the presence of an enigmatic, lithe character who swoops around the stage dancing, drowning and bathing in the rippling blue light, reeling off passages from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. 

But unlike the computer-minded Ted, we feel no compulsion to solve the puzzle since we’re too busy gawping at Anna Fleischle’s magical set, a playground of 3D cardboard cut-outs that evoke a dizzying London skyline. Fleischle’s’s centrepiece is a modernist-miracle household, comprised of several raised open-sided boxes, softly back lit. Bright, airy and yet mysterious, the scenery demands to be invaded and explored, climbed and conquered.

Rarely are the cast at rest; director Rosamunde Hutt and movement director Dan O'Neill know their audience’s limits and opt to conjure a whirlwind of movement and mood change over sheer spectacle. Zipping like electrons through a circuit, the ensemble cast share an extraordinary electro-chemistry emitting kilowatts of positive vibe. 

John Cockerill is superb at Ted, whose literalness, caused by his condition, is a continual source of amusement; heads are not actually laughed off, and ‘to drive one’s banana’ is definitely not to employ a form of transport. Cockerill seems to have transmuted himself into the body of Ted, whose tics and fits are utterly convincing by-products of a differently-ordered mind. His ruminations on weather patterns are touchingly earnest and suggest that like Shakespeare’s Prospero, he too is cast away on an island, isolated and almost alone.

When he strikes out for the mainland we’re with him every stroke of the way. Kat, played to bubble-gum perfection by an elastic Amaka Okafor, offers us a view of what Ted, whom we instinctively adore due to his honesty, has as a model for ‘normality’ – a boy-crazy, style mad teenager, whom is surely just as nuts as he is.

Salim and his friend Marcus played by Liam Lane and Ery Nzaramba respectively are another charismatic pairing. Their bond, which suggests an affection beyond friendship, becomes a symbol of exuberance and rebellion. The Eye viewing capsule could be seen as the gateway to the as-yet unknown delights of the teenage years to come.

It’s hard not to fall for this cohesive and well-aimed piece that’s brainy and not ashamed of itself; cool but not cocky. What do I hate about theatre? Number one: the show always has to end.

Unicorn Theatre
147 Tooley Street
More London
Southwark, London

Box Office: 020 7645 0560

Tickets £6-16




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