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Boing! review at Unicorn Theatre, London – ‘masterfully delivered’

Wlkie Branson and Joel Daniel in Boing at Unicorn Theatre, London. Photo: Helen Murray

Much children's theatre seems to be based on successful books, so it's really refreshing when a piece comes along without accompanying merchandise. Unburdened by audience expectations, director Sally Cookson's idea is beautifully simple and completely genuine in the way it addresses a well known problem faced by many pre-schoolers: the Christmas Eve nerves.

The piece's relevance is not merely seasonal, dealing as it does with the more universally relatable issue of sleeplessness. It’s clear that it works. Audience appeal is in evidence from start to finish. There are unrestrained gasps, shrieks of joy and willing participation from the young audience. At 50 minutes in length, the piece is well-pitched to the target group’s attention span, though younger ones might start to flag a bit towards the end.

The two-hander is staged on and around an (extra springy) bed, given a makeover by the designer Katie Sykes. It may sound limited, but you would be surprised to know just how many exciting games can come out of cheeky Joel and sensible Wilkie's bedtime routine. Performer-choreographers Daniel and Branson have worked as devisers on the piece as well which results in seamlessness and fluidity throughout. This is enhanced by Alex Vann's dynamic yet mostly discreet score and a strategic use of a single chorus line: “If you want Santa to come, you must go to sleep”.

Carefully thought-through and always light on its feet, Boing! has a sense of accomplishment and dramaturgical coherence that is rarely found even in grown up theatre.

 

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Verdict
Sally Cookson's bedtime Christmas show for younger audiences is masterfully delivered
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