Friday, 22 January 2016

PREVIEW - Minotaur at the Unicorn Theatre

MOST people know the story of Theseus and his venture into the labyrinth to meet the Minotaur. It is one of the most recognisable and well known of the Greek myths.
A re-imagining of this classic tale is about to open at the Unicorn Theatre. Written by Adam Peck, Minotaur promises to be an action packed treat perfect for young audiences.
It is directed by Tarek Iskander and is part of the Tooley Street theatre's Greek season which includes My Father, Odysseus by Timerblake Wertenbaker.
It is set in Crete, in an impossible labyrinth, where lives a fearsome and lonely beast, half bull, half man.
Only his sister Ariadne cares for him, and she dreams of setting them both free from the rule of their selfish father, King Minos.
But when Ariadne sees her chance to escape, she makes a terrible pact with the enemy’s son that will change everyone’s future for better or for worse.
For Tarek it is a chance for him to direct a show specifically for a younger audience, something he's relishing.
"I really enjoyed the script when I first read it," he enthuses. "I was really moved by the language. It was also well structured and didn't hide from difficult topics.
"What was great was that the basic structure of the myth was there and it's kept throughout the piece so it's completely recognisable, but it gives people space to use their imaginations."
Not wanting to spoil any surprises, Tarek is understandably shy about giving away too much but says none of the drama, conflict or difficult parts of the story are lost in this retelling.
"There are no obvious good or bad people - instead it focuses on family, specifically King Minos and his relationship with Ariadne, the generation gap and what happens in family conflicts," he explains.
"I am sure the audience will recognise elements of the story in their own lives - such as having to deal with difficult parents or making difficult decisions.
"We have all had that," he adds laughing. "I had a very happy childhood but I remember my older sisters had lots of arguments with our parents!
"Crucially though, the piece is not patronising to children who it's aimed at - in fact it's quite dark and really challenging and is a good story to grapple with.
"We had some schoolchildren come in to see some of the rehearsals and we did a couple of scenes for them within which were complicated narrative twists and they understood every single bit of it.
"It shows that you don't need to create theatre any differently for children as they get it all."
As well as the drama of the story Tarek says the hour long piece is punctuated with humour.
"It’s also not unremitting misery," he adds. "It's still a Greek tragedy but even in the scenes that are serious we often find humour in it."
Such has been his enjoyment of being part of the process of bringing it to a young audience it has inspired the East Dulwich director to do more work in children's theatre.
And he says working at the Unicorn has been "an amazing experience".
"It’s the first time I’ve worked at the Unicorn," he says. "What I really like is the extremely friendly atmosphere here. It's laid back but they take their work very seriously and treat theatre as an art rather than a commodity. It inspires you to try harder which is fantastic.
"It’s made working on this piece such a joy," he adds. "Until recently I’d never done any children’s theatre but this has been such good fun I’d like to do more.
"What I love is that kids give an immediate reaction - the room is always alive and you get instant feedback so it feels participative.
"I can't wait to see and hear their reactions to this piece!"

Minotaur is on at the Unicorn Theatre, Tooley Street, until Saturday, April 2. Tickets from £12. Visit or call the box office on 020 7645 0560 for tickets.

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