Yikes! review at Unicorn London
Bryony Lavery’s tale of a family’s picnic to the Old Ruined Graveyard begins promisingly, with her characters emerging unexpectedly one by one from a giant bed, starting off as big snoring lumps and then turning, respectively, into a boy, a baby, a grandma and a moody teenager.
Liz Cooke’s striking design then doubles up as the fields and rivers that the gang cross during their expedition, being chased by bands of bees ingeniously created from bike tyres and road signs brought to life as angry cattle.
But despite the production’s imaginative touches, its recitative style, with the actors half-singing, half talking their lines to the accompaniment of an organist at the back of the stage, drags it back into the realm of tedium. Each character has a distinct way of talking and a musical motif – the grandma forgets her words, the baby talks in surprised monosyllables and the moody teenager hates everything – but what starts as a good idea becomes frustratingly repetitive and restrictive.
Added to that, the performers’ voices are not all strong enough to carry it off and with the music itself on the quiet and undramatic side (I realised halfway through that there were other instruments being played but they were hidden so far back it was hard to hear or see them) it just feels a bit like a musical that never quite takes off.
Some sparkling performances – particularly from Harriette Ashcroft as Zipper the dim dog, wobbling all over with the excited effort of wagging her tail, and Miltos Yerolemou as baby, who all but steals the show and all the laughs from the young audience – stave off the boredom.
Unicorn, London, April 6-May 14
- Bryony Lavery
- Rebecca Gatward
- Unicorn Theatre
- Cast includes
- Harriette Ashcroft, Sarah Corbett, Gareth Corke, Mary McCusker, Miltos Yerolemou
- Running time