The Velveteen Rabbit review at the Unicorn Theatre, London – ‘delightful’
Purni Morell’s sweet and adorable production based on Margery Williams’ 1922 children’s novel, The Velveteen Rabbit, was first performed in 2014.
Returning to the Unicorn in time for Christmas, Morell’s staging takes place on a small set with over-sized toys dotted around the floor, which successfully allows you to believe that the two actors – Christian Roe and Ashley Byam – are a young boy and a toy rabbit going on a series of adventures.
The audience is taken on a ship at sea, to the bottom of the ocean and on an Indian elephant ride, all within the boy’s bedroom. Jason Carr masterfully controls the tension in the room from his piano, along with elegant stagecraft of a snowstorm and a campsite fire; the room is fully immersed in the childlike fantasies.
Christian Roe, dressed by James Button in a Corduroy Jacket that is periodically swapped out for increasingly tattered versions to mark the passage of time, brings a wide-eyed innocence to the velveteen rabbit. Roe is loose limbed as he flops around the floor and allows himself to be thrown about, with his every move followed by children’s delighted squeals from the audience.
Stitched together with Stephen Kennedy’s playful narration, the ending is rather anticlimatic, marred by an out of place disembodied voice for the fairy by Hannah Gordon, and only saved by the appearance of a real rabbit to inject some wonder.
Despite this, it remains a timeless tale of abandonment and love, skilfully adapted as a treat for both adults and children to enjoy this Christmas.