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Icarus at the Unicorn Theatre, London | Review

Rayxia Ojo, Arinder Sadhra, Marshall Defender Nyanhete and Selva Rasalingam in Icarus at the Unicorn Theatre. Photo by Camilla Greenwell
Rayxia Ojo, Arinder Sadhra, Marshall Defender Nyanhete and Selva Rasalingam in Icarus at the Unicorn Theatre. Photo by Camilla Greenwell

Whenever we hear of the downfall of a famous person, someone is bound to say that their problem was, they flew too close to the sun – or something along those lines. A strange expression but a famous one and I wonder how many people know where it originated. Well, if you get yourself along to the Unicorn Theatre for the first UK production of Katrin Lange’s Icarus, you just might find out.

Icarus (Marshall Defender Nyanhete) is the eldest son of Daedalus (Selva Rasalingam) and is an unhappy boy. His father, who is a builder by trade, has gone missing. The family last heard of him arriving in Crete where he was starting work on a hush-hush job. But since then, not a word or, more importantly, any money has come back to Icarus, his mother, and siblings. The plucky youngster decided to go and find his father and sets off, complete with a home-made jumper on his adventure. In Crete, Icarus and Daedalus meet up and he learns that his father is working for King Minos of Crete (Arinder Sadhra) to build an inescapable Labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull monster. Minos is a tyrannical monarch who rules his country with an iron fist, and Icarus, with his rather forthright attitude and inability to control his mouth, soon falls foul of the king. In order to teach Icarus a lesson, Minos gives the boy to his daughter Ariadne (Rayxia Ojo) to punish. However, in the Cretian world, not everything is as it seems and Icarus’s adventures take an unexpected turn when the princess gets her hands on him.

Now, I have to admit, I sort of knew the Icarus story, or at least the end of it. German writer Katrin Lange’s play translated by Purni Morell really brings the whole story to life in a contemporary and accessible that was definitely suitable for children and adults alike. There are parts of the story, such as the number of times Icarus is asked if he believes everything he is told that will really resonate in the current society where the proliferation of ‘fake news’ continues unabated.

Over the roughly sixty-five minutes, the children were totally mesmerised by the story in front of them. Part of this has to do with the setting. Director Cressida Brown has an amazing space in which to operate makes full use of it. Lucy Sierra’s jaw-dropping scenery – which I have to say was up to West End standard – combined with Ziggy Jacobs-Wyburn evocative lighting and Jon McLeod’s sound really brought the story to life. My one annoyance was, and this happens so often, smoke/haze. Yes, it adds atmosphere, but I do think it is overdone and has a tendency to hang around when it’s not needed. However, there were a lot of great moments in this production. Rowan Davies-Moore sounded great as both the narrator and voice of the minotaur and very quickly established a nice connection with the audience.

Marshall Defender Nyanhete gave an excellent performance as Icarus, managing to channel all the emotions you would expect from a child on the verge of adulthood who knows what is right and wrong but doesn’t yet have the self-control or feel the need to hide their feelings in the way his father does. This is a very strong part of the story. Whilst most adults would accept it as part of the play, children would want to know why, for example, nobody challenges Minos when he does nasty things. Marshal, challenges but in that nice innocent way that children question things they don’t understand oblivious to the distress and embarrassment they cause their parents.

To summarise, if you would like your children to start taking an interest in Greek mythology, then Icarus is a great introduction. Alternatively, if you fancy a good night out with at the theatre with all the family then, once again, Icarus is the show to see.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

His family is falling apart and he feels powerless to help. His father is far away across the sea, forced to work for the tyrannical King Minos and unable to return.

Icarus makes a decision to take control of their fate. But what can one boy do against injustice? Can he save his family or will he crash and burn?

As Icarus attempts to make sense of the adult world, he begins to understand that there is no one answer, that his parents are fallible, and that doing the right thing is hard. Icarus is a vivid and engaging play that explores growing up, family relationships, corruption, myths and mortality.

The cast is Marshall Defender Nyanhete as Icarus, Rayxia Ojo as Ariadne, Selva Rasalingam as Daedalus and Arinder Sadhra as Xena.

Age guide: 8 – 12 / Duration: Approx 1 hr 15 mins

Unicorn Theatre 147 Tooley Street, London SE1 2HZ


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