Reviewed – 22nd May 2018
“showcases both promising writing and promising performance, in a touching tale of love, division and growing up”
At a house party, an unlikely couple meet for the first time. There’s the age gap (Jack is 19, Katie is 22), the class gap (Jack’s from Essex, Katie’s comes from a rich family) and the geography gap (Katie is at Bristol University). Katie is studying philosophy and she doesn’t have a plan. Jack wants to go into finance and dreams of a house, kids, a car – so he says – though Katie is more interested in his passion for photography. This is a story about the effect of our background on our political ideologies and future plans, about two people in a relationship going down distinctly different paths, but ultimately it is a story about connection, and about holding onto these connections no matter what.
Lauren Cooney as Katie exudes warmth, and fills the space with a relaxed and playful energy that is impossible not to catch. She delivers the nuances of Katie’s character with ease and commits to every moment. Brad Johnson plays Jack, and is also the writer of the piece. Johnson’s performance is competent but he isn’t able to match Cooney’s warmth and ease, and never seems to quite relax into the space or the character. From a writing point of view, Johnson’s story is relatable and contemporary, and adds a politically conscious edge to an honest and human portrayal of a young relationship. A moment of dance amongst an otherwise naturalistic script feels slightly discordant, but otherwise the piece is coherent and well-crafted, taking us through the couples’ pivotal moments together, balancing moments of love with moments of strain in which both characters are simultaneously likeable yet flawed.
Sophia Pardon’s set is ever-changing. Wooden boxes morph into sofas and tables and out of each come duvets and vases and beer bottles as the play spans across five years. At the back of the space, costumes hang on rails and the actors throw on outfit after outfit. The changeovers are a little clumsy as a result of all this moving and changing. Clear effort has been made to remedy this, with interactions between the actors as they dress, often in time to the music but these frequently feel one sided, initiated and committed to by Cooney with limited reciprocation from Johnson.
‘Unicorn’ showcases both promising writing and promising performance, in a touching tale of love, division and growing up.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Thandie Massango
Theatre N16 until 24th May