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Icarus review at Unicorn Theatre, London – ‘creative update of the Greek myth’

Marshall Defender Nyanhete as Icarus at the Unicorn Theatre. Photo: Camilla Greenwell

In this new version of the ancient Greek myth, Icarus starts out as an average modern schoolboy. But sofa wars and sibling squabbles are soon swapped for an epic quest when he sets sail to Crete to locate his master builder father and bring him home.

Written by Katrin Lange, and translated by the Unicorn’s outgoing artistic director Purni Morell, the script is notable for its economy of language and its neat integration of poetic phrases into a clearly understandable narrative.

As the story’s hero, Marshall Defender Nyanhete is an enigmatic performer who captures the youthful fearlessness of Icarus. He’s particularly good at getting the children in the audience involved and participating, while also keeping control of proceedings.

At points, the pacing feels a teensy bit slow, but ultimately the joy of Cressida Brown’s production is its stagecraft. Designed by the show’s own ‘master builder’ Lucy Sierra, the Cretan landscape is a brutalist jigsaw of expansive concrete blocks that morph into the forbidding labyrinth. Illuminated with colour-changing neon stripes and back-dropped with short blasts of rock music, it makes for a fantastic attention-grabbing spectacle.

Lange’s story alters the classic myth in some significant ways, turning it into a contemporary parable of who is – and isn’t – considered a monster.

This is a fine example of what the Unicorn does best: intelligent, creative and un-patronising theatre for children and young adults.

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High-flying set design gives wow factor to an updated Greek myth for eight to 12 year olds