Review: Unicorn

4 star rating
An unpretentious, yet thoughtful and relevant play, with well-judged performances and capable direction, explores how career ambitions and social background can affect romantic pairing.
Unicorn at Theatre N16

Image: Theatre N16

Theatre: Theatre N16

Closes here: Thursday 24 May 2018

Brad Johnson

Rob Ellis


Lauren Cooney

Brad Johnson


Jack is a typical working class lad from Essex who is into RnB, Paco Rabane and Grey Goose Vodka.

Katie is a mysterious, smart, spiritual student unlike anyone Jack has ever met before.

When they hit it off at a house party, he's under her spell.

This two hander follows Jack and Katie's relationship over a five year period as this unlikely couple fall in and and out of love.

"My parents flew me into crisis talks when I didn't get into Oxbridge."

"My parents congratulated me for not getting expelled."

Unicorn is new writer Brad Johnson's debut play which explores the cultural differences that exist between the working and middle classes, toxic masculinity and finding 'The One'.

ActDrop reviews

Peter Brown

Performance date: Monday 21 May 2018
Review star rating image for 3 stars

What are the important factors when selecting a partner we can happily spend a lifetime with?

Physical attraction might obviously be top of the list initially, but social background and class, career aspirations and a whole host of other matters all belong as terms in the romantic equation.

Brad Johnson's debut play as a writer is designed to especially appeal to those who might not normally be theatre-goers.

So the idea of tackling issues around finding and keeping a mate seems a suitable subject to attract that niche.

Additionally, it avoids being overly demanding or dramatically top-heavy, even if these are some emotionally intense scenes and the play as a whole asks the audience to make judgements and come to conclusions.

Unicorn is also a short two-hander, with a clear, recognisable plot that is easy to understand, even if it throws-up complex and highly significant issues.

Brad Johnson's Jack is an Essex-raised young man who has turned his career gaze away from the university trail and instead sees a path that terminates in the City where the lure of big bucks and a swanky lifestyle are irresistible.

Lauren Cooney's Katie, on the other hand, comes from a fairly wealthy, middle class family and seems determined to leave all that behind, even deliberately rebelling against her upbringing and background.

When they first meet, their age difference seems a much bigger deal than the mere 3 years it actually is.

Katie is the elder of the two and her assured confidence is ably demonstrated in Ms Cooney's performance which portrays a young woman who knows what she wants - and what she doesn't want - and what path her life and career will take.

Brad Johnson's Jack is hardly the loud, raucous Essex boy that we might expect him to be.

In fact he's rather understated in spite of some of his more right-wing political views and career ambitions.

Moreover, there's a creative side to his character which manifests itself in a more than passing interest in photography.

However, he seems bent on finding a career among the traders of the city, with making money and enjoying the good life being high-up on his list of priorities.

Unicorn is punctuated throughout with regular scene changes.

In one sense, these gaps in the flow of action could be seen as irritations since they slow down the development of the story to some extent.

But I think director Rob Ellis sees these scene breaks as providing both dramatic functionality as well as breaking-up the piece into bite-size chunks that might prove more digestible to those less used to watching lengthy unbroken drama.

That aim also seems to justify the well-selected music accompanying the scene changes which also, quite naturally, describe development in time and mood as well as in the characters themselves.

Finding a partner is, for most people at least, fairly high up on their list of interests and priorities.

Unicorn ably taps into that proving highly relevant.

But it's also suitably packaged in an unpretentious format that should successfully achieve its intentions of appealing to a wide cross-section of audiences.

Moreover, with well-judged, engaging performances inspired by commendable direction that finds just the right pace and tone, there's more than enough here to both entertain and provoke thought.

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